Well done. You've clicked the tower. This would actually achieve something if you had logged in first. Use the key for that. The name takes you home. This is where all the applicables sit. And you can't apply any changes to my site unless you are logged in.

Our policy is best summarized as "we don't care about _you_, we care about _them_", no emails, so no forgetting your password. You have no rights. It's like you don't even exist. If you publish material, I reserve the right to remove it, or use it myself.

Don't impersonate. Don't name someone involuntarily. You can lose everything if you cross the line, and no, I won't cancel your automatic payments first, so you'll have to do it the hard way. See how serious this sounds? That's how serious you're meant to take these.

Read the full thing here.

Required. 150 characters or fewer. Letters, digits and @/./+/-/_ only.
  • Your password can’t be too similar to your other personal information.
  • Your password must contain at least 8 characters.
  • Your password can’t be a commonly used password.
  • Your password can’t be entirely numeric.

Enter the same password as before, for verification.

Grow A Dic
Define A Word
Make Space
Set Task
Mark Post
Apply Votestyle
Create Votes
(From: saved spaces)
Exclude Votes
Apply Dic
Exclude Dic
Upload A File
Submit Email

Buy Advertising

Follow the form on the landing page to bid
for an uncensored self-regulated ad position.
Each word included bears the same ad

Login to enable post sorting. Buy/sell dictionaries which contain words which contain spaces (subreddits) to conglomerate posts and sell ads. Adverts pay users for each click and are auctioned off to the highest bidder. No clicks no credits. Posts do not archive, they stay active but can recirculate by editing to add new spaces (you can post to multiple spaces at once). We do not track your data, not even an email. Your content is yours, so you can input a Creative Commons on every post.

Click here to flash read.

ed States and
most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at
www.gutenberg.org. If you are not located in the United States, you
will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before
using this eBook.

Title: Angola and the River Congo

Author: Joachim John Monteiro

Illustrator: Edward Fielding

Release Date: May 17, 2022 [eBook #68110]

Language: English

Produced by: Peter Becker and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
at https://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive)



Compiled by










_All Rights Reserved._




I Dedicate this Work



The following description of the country between the River Zaire or
Congo, and Mossamedes or Little Fish Bay, comprising ten degrees of
latitude, is the result of many years of travel in and exploration of
that part of the coast.

My aim has been to present an accurate and truthful account of its more
striking features and productions, and of the manners and customs of
the various tribes which inhabit it.

I have avoided mentioning more names of places and persons than are
necessary, as they would be of little or no interest to the general
reader. I have also omitted detailed lists and descriptions of plants
and animals that I have collected, as such would only interest
naturalists, who are referred to the different scientific publications
in which they have been described.

This being the first detailed account of a most interesting and rich
part of Tropical Africa, I leave it with confidence to the indulgence
of my readers, assuring them that at all events a want of truth is not
included in its shortcomings.





















_Drawn on Wood by_ MR. EDWARD FIELDING; _the Views from Sketches by_
MRS. MONTEIRO, _and from Photographs; the Implements, &c., from the

MAP _Frontispiece_.

Travelling in Angola--View near Ambriz _To face page_ 23

Porto da Lenha ” 81

View on the Congo, above Boma ” 99

Ankle-ring--Ring to ascend Palm-trees--Cage for carrying Ivory
tusks--Engongui--Fetish figure--Mask--Pillow ” 140

Granite Pillar of Musserra--Wooden trumpet--Hoe--Pipe--Knives--
Clapping hands and Answer ” 145

View in the hilly country of Quiballa--Camoensia
maxima ” 177

Quilumbo ” 185

Bembe Valley ” 189

Bembe Peak ” 231




The following sketch of the discovery and earlier history of Angola
is translated and condensed from an interesting work in Portuguese by
Feo Cardozo, on the ‘History of the Governors of Angola’ (Paris, 8vo,

“The Portuguese, engrossed by the great hopes raised by the conquest
of Brazil and the Indies, did not determine to establish themselves in
Angola till eighty-four years after they had discovered it. The King
of Angola, jealous of the advantages that he supposed his neighbour
the King of Congo derived from his trade and intercourse with the
Portuguese, determined to send several of his subjects to Portugal to
beg the like friendship for himself. Queen Catherine, acceding to
his request, sent to him Paulo Diaz de Novaes, grandson of the famous
Bartolomeo Diaz, who had discovered the greater part of the West Coast
and the Cape of Good Hope. Paulo Diaz left Lisbon in September, 1559,
with three ships, a few soldiers, and a present for the King, bearing
instructions to open commercial relations with the latter, and to
convert him to Christianity. After many dangers he arrived in May,
1560, at the mouth of the River Quanza; the King of Angola was dead,
but his son, who then reigned, renewed on his arrival his father’s
request for friendly relations with the Portuguese. Paulo Diaz, relying
on his statements, landed with only twenty men, and leaving the rest on
board the ships ordered them to return to Portugal if within a certain
time he should not come back to them. He immediately marched to the
Court of Angola, where he and his present were received by the King
with acclamation.

“After the lapse of a few days, Paulo Diaz, wishing to retire to his
ships, was prevented by the King under the pretence of his aid being
required in some wars he was then engaged in. He was thus detained a
prisoner until the King, hard pressed by the revolt of one of his
powerful vassals, determined to allow him to return to Portugal, so
that he might bring him assistance. From the missals, altar-stones,
and old-fashioned church furniture that he saw in the hands of the
negroes during his expedition into the interior, Paulo Diaz concluded
that missionaries had already been in the country many years before.
Returning to Portugal he gave an account of what he had seen to the
King, Dom Sebastian, who sent him back with the title of Conqueror,
Coloniser, and Governor of Angola, and conceded to him ample powers for
the establishment of the new colony.

“Paulo Diaz left Lisbon in October, 1574, with a fleet of seven ships,
and seven hundred men, and sighted land after a passage of three months
and a half. Landing on the island facing the present city of Loanda,
he took formal possession of it in the name of the King of Portugal.
An immense number of negroes witnessed the ceremony, as well as forty
Portuguese who had retired from the kingdom of Congo, owing to the wars
amongst the negroes of that country.

“The King of Angola received the Portuguese with great joy, and in
return for the presents that Dom Sebastian had sent him, gave Paulo
Diaz several armlets of silver and of copper, and sticks of Quicongo
wood; the silver of the armlets was afterwards made into a chalice and
presented to the church of Belem at Lisbon.

“Finding that the island was not suitable for establishing the new
colony, the Portuguese removed to the mainland, and choosing the spot
now occupied by the fortress of San Miguel, built a church and founded
their first colony in Angola. They then aided the King, and enabled
him speedily to reduce his rebel vassal to obedience. After several
months passed in the greatest friendship, the King of Congo attempted
to intrigue against the Portuguese, but without success. Perfect
peace existed between the Portuguese and the blacks of Angola for six
years, when it was destroyed by the base perfidy of a Portuguese,
who begged the King to make him his slave, as he wished to disclose
a most important secret. Astonished at this proposition, the King
called together his ‘Macotas’ or council, and in their presence ordered
the infamous traitor to divulge it; on which he said that Paulo Diaz
planned despoiling him of his kingdom and mines, for which purpose he
had collected great stores of powder and ball. Next day the King caused
all the Portuguese to appear before him, and in their presence the
traitor repeated his story. The Portuguese, in astonishment, attempted
to refute the calumny, but without attending to their explanations
the King ordered them from his presence, and taking counsel of his
‘Macotas’ was persuaded by them to destroy at once all the Portuguese,
and thus avert the threatened danger. Approving their advice, he
feigned forgetfulness of the occurrence, then under pretence of a war
in the interior, sent forward the Portuguese, who, ignorant of the
stratagem, were all suddenly set upon and murdered, together with the
Christian slaves, numbering over a thousand. A similar fate befell all
the Portuguese engaged in trading in different parts of the country,
and their goods and property were taken possession of. The traitor
received the just punishment of his infamy, for the King ordered him
to be executed, saying, it was not right that one should live who had
caused the death of his countrymen. This cruel butchery concluded, the
King sent Paulo Diaz, who was on his journey from Loanda, an order not
to proceed beyond the spot at which he should receive it.

“The Governor, though totally ignorant of the horrible catastrophe,
distrusted the message, and, retiring to Anzelle, erected a wooden
intrenchment, and fortifying it with two small cannon, awaited the
solution of the affair. But few days had elapsed before he received
tidings of the dreadful tragedy, and of the advance of a great army of
blacks to annihilate him and the remaining Portuguese. This news, far
from terrifying him, inspired him with the hope of speedily avenging
the murder of his countrymen. Animating his garrison, of only 150 men,
with the same sentiment, he, with the aid of their two guns, repelled
the attack of the blacks, causing such havoc among them that they were
completely routed and dispersed; he also sent his lieutenant into the
interior to ravage it with fire and sword. This was accomplished so
successfully, that the King, repenting of his barbarity, turned against
the Macotas who had counselled him, and ordered them all to be put to

“Paulo Diaz being reinforced from Portugal, defeated several of the
‘Sobas,’ or chiefs of Quissama, who attempted to impede his navigation
of the River Quanza, defeated a second time the King of Angola, and
conquered the greater part of the Provinces of Quissama and Illamba,
the whole of which he could not occupy from want of men. He then,
resolving to acquire the silver mines said to exist in the mountains of
Cambambe, fortified himself with his Lieutenant, Luis Serrão, and 120
men, at Tacandongo, which is a short distance from the supposed mines.

“Here they were approached by the third army of the King of Angola, so
numerous that it extended for two leagues. The Governor attacked it on
the 2nd February, 1583, before it had had time to form on the plain
below, and with the assistance of several native chiefs fell on the
black multitude with such success as to disperse it completely in a
few hours, leaving the field covered with dead. Paulo Diaz ordered the
noses of all the slain to be cut off, and sent several loads of them
to Loanda as evidence of his victory, and to inspire the blacks with
the fear of his arms. The King of Angola, rendered desperate by these
repeated defeats, attempted with a fourth army to obtain a victory
over the Portuguese, but was again routed with great slaughter.
In celebration of the above victory Paulo Diaz founded the first
settlement in the interior at Massangano, under the title of Nossa
Senhora da Victoria.

“In 1597, 200 Flemish colonists arrived at Loanda, but nearly the whole
of them quickly died from the effects of the climate.

“About the same time the colony of Benguella was founded by a party of
seventy soldiers, but fifty of these having walked out unarmed on the
beach, to amuse themselves by fishing, were surprised by a large number
of blacks, who cut their heads off, and then attacked the twenty men
in the fort. They defended themselves bravely until all but two, who
managed to escape, were killed.

“Constantly engaged in wars with the powerful ‘Sobas’ and savage
populous nations of the interior, the Portuguese gradually extended and
established their power in Angola.

“In 1595, Jeronymo d’Almeida, with 400 men and twenty-one horses, again
started from Loanda to take possession of the silver mines of Cambambe,
and on his way established the fort at Muxima on the River Quanza.
Continuing his march, he fell ill, and was obliged to return to
Loanda, leaving his officers in command. These were unfortunately drawn
into an ambuscade in a rocky ravine at Cambambe, where, an immense
number of blacks falling on them, 206 of the Portuguese were slain,
notwithstanding their bravest resistance, and only seven men escaped
the wholesale slaughter.

“In the same year João Furtado de Mendonça arrived at Loanda, bringing
with him twelve white women, the first that had ever arrived in Angola,
and who are said to have all married immediately.

“The new Governor’s first acts were to retrieve the losses suffered
by his predecessor, but starting in the worst season of the year, he
remained some time on the banks of the River Bengo, where 200 men died
of fever, the rest suffering greatly from hunger. At last, continuing
his march with the remains of his force, he very successfully reduced
the rebellious ‘Sobas’ to obedience, and relieving the little garrison
at Massangano, inflicted great loss on the blacks in a battle at that
place. Returning down the River Quanza, he re-established at Muxima the
fort that had been abandoned.

“In 1602, João Rodrigues Coutinho arrived as Governor with
reinforcements of men and ammunition, and full powers to promote the
conquest of the silver mines of Cambambe. A powerful and well-appointed
expedition again started for this purpose, but on arriving at a place
called Cacullo Quiaquimone he fell ill and died. Manoel Cerveira
Pereira, his successor, resolving to carry out his predecessor’s
intentions, marched into Cambambe, and on the 10th August, 1603,
offered battle to the Soba Cafuxe, whom he defeated in a great
engagement; continuing his march he built a fort in Cambambe and forced
the Soba Cambambe to submit.

“About 1606, the first attempt was made to communicate across the
continent of Africa with the River Senna, on the eastern coast, and
for this expedition Balthazar Rebello de Aragão was chosen, but after
proceeding for a considerable distance he was obliged to return to
relieve the garrison at Cambambe, closely besieged by the blacks.

“Though constant wars were necessary to reduce the warlike Sobas of
the interior to obedience, the successes of the Portuguese continued,
and their efforts were also directed to the conquest of Benguella and
settlement there.

“In the year 1621, the famous Queen Ginga Bandi came to Loanda as
head of an embassy from her brother, the Gola Bandi; she arranged a
treaty of peace with the Portuguese, was converted to Christianity
and baptized under the name of Ginga Donna Anna de Souza. She was
proclaimed Queen of Angola on the death of her brother, whom she
ordered to be poisoned, never forgiving him for having killed her son.
She then not only forsook Christianity, but forgetting the manner in
which she had been treated by the Portuguese, bore them a deadly hatred
for upwards of thirty years, during which time she was unsuccessful in
all her wars against them.

“The Dutch, who for several years had greatly annoyed the Portuguese
on the West Coast, attempted to possess themselves of some of their
ports for the purpose of obtaining a supply of slaves for their
colonies in America. During the governorship of Fernan de Souza the
Dutch despatched a fleet of eight ships commanded by Petri Petrid, who
attempted to force the bar of Loanda, but meeting with a determined
resistance retired from the coast after a stay of three months, having
only captured four small vessels.

“The Count of Nassau, considering that without an abundant supply of
slaves from the west coast the Dutch possessions in America would be
of little value, determined to take stronger measures for obtaining
them, and sent a powerful fleet of twenty vessels, under the command of
General Tolo. On the 24th August, 1641, this formidable fleet appeared
at Loanda, and such was the consternation it caused that the Governor
and inhabitants abandoned the city and retired to Bembem. The Dutch
landing next day became, without opposition, masters of the place and
of a large booty.

“Pedro Cezar retired to the River Bengo, but, pursued by the Dutch,
retired to Massangano, where the Portuguese suffered terribly from the
effects of the climate. Many of the native chiefs, taking advantage
of the occasion, rose in arms against them. Queen Ginga and several
other powerful chiefs immediately formed an alliance with the Dutch.
The Portuguese attempted, but unsuccessfully, to punish several of
them. The Dutch subsequently formed a truce with the Portuguese,
in consequence of news arriving from Europe of a treaty of peace
having been concluded between the two powers; but shortly after,
treacherously attacking the Portuguese, they killed the principal
officers and forty men, and took the Governor and 120 men prisoners.

“Those that escaped fled to Massangano until another truce was
concluded, and means were found to enable Pedro Cezar to escape from
the fortress of San Miguel, where he was imprisoned.

“Francisco de Soutomayor now arrived from Portugal as Governor of
Angola, and with the remnant of the troops at Benguella, where he had
landed, proceeded to Massangano, without knowledge of the enemy. Queen
Ginga, influenced secretly by the Dutch, was collecting her forces for
the purpose of attacking the Portuguese, but was completely defeated,
leaving 2000 blacks dead on the field of battle. A few days after, the
Dutch again broke their truce, and the Portuguese, incensed at their
repeated treachery, declared war against them. Thus they remained till
the arrival of Salvador Correa de Sá e Benavides, Governor of Rio
Janeiro, from which place he started in May, 1648, with a fleet of
fifteen vessels and 900 men. Towards the expenses of this expedition
the inhabitants of Rio Janeiro largely contributed, as they saw how
hurtful to their interests the loss of Angola would be from the failure
in the supply of slave labour.

“Arrived at Loanda, he sent a message to the Dutch Governor that
although his orders were to preserve peace with him, still, as he had
so treacherously and repeatedly broken it with the Portuguese, he
considered himself free to declare war against him; but, to prevent
bloodshed, he gave the Dutch the option of surrendering, assuring
them of an honourable capitulation. The Dutch asked for eight days
to consider; Salvador Correa accorded them two, at the end of which
he sent his secretary on shore, with orders to signal whether the
Dutch accepted his terms or meant to defend themselves; they chose
the latter, and the Portuguese immediately landed, and invested the
fortress of San Miguel. The Dutch had abandoned six guns, these
with four others from the ships were the same night planted on two
batteries, and the fortress bombarded. This not having the desired
effect, Salvador Correa ordered a general attack. The Portuguese were,
however, repulsed with a loss of 163 men killed and wounded. The Dutch,
unaware of this great loss, and expecting a second attack, hoisted a
white flag, and sent to arrange the terms of capitulation, which being
done, the gates, on the 15th of August, 1648, were thrown open, and
there issued forth 1100 Dutch, German, and French infantry, and as many
blacks, who were all surprised, on passing the Portuguese troops, at
the smallness of their numbers, and repented their hasty submission.
Salvador Correa sent them all on board three vessels to await their
countrymen away in the interior. On their arrival these were also
placed on board, and they set sail the same day. Shortly after he
caused the Dutch establishments at Pinda and Loango to be demolished,
and their expulsion being completed, he next fell on and defeated the
native chiefs.

“It was in the time of this Governor that the Italian Capuchin Friars
passed from the kingdom of Congo to Loanda, to establish in the
interior their excellent missions. For several years the Portuguese
waged a constant war with the Libollos, the Quissamas, the Soba N’golla
Caboco, the Chiefs of Benguella, and the Dembos Ambuillas at Encoge.

“In the year 1694 the first copper coinage was introduced from Portugal
into Angola, the currency up to that time being in the shape of little
straw mats called ‘Libongos,’ of the value of fifty reis each (about
2_d._). (These little mats are at present only employed as money in

“In 1758, the Portuguese established themselves at Encoge. In 1783, an
expedition was despatched to the Port of Cabinda, to establish a fort;
300 men, however, quickly died there from the effects of the climate,
and the rest surrendered to a French squadron, sent to demolish any
fortifications that might impede the free commerce of all nations on
the coast of Loango.

“Shortly after 1784, the Portuguese had a great war with the natives of
Mossulo, which lasted some five years before they were finally defeated.

“It was during the government, and by the efforts of Antonio de
Saldanha da Gama (1807-1810), that direct intercourse was established
with the nation of the Moluas, and through their intervention overland
communication with the eastern coast was obtained.

“The first attempt to communicate directly across the continent, from
Angola to Moçambique, was made as already noticed in the year 1606.
Two expeditions were proposed to start simultaneously from Moçambique
and Angola, and meet in the interior. The former, under the command of
the naturalist, Dr. Lacerda, started from the River Senna, and reached
Cazembe, where Lacerda fell a victim to the insalubrity of the climate.

“Antonio de Saldanha, anxious to realize a project so interesting to
geographical knowledge, and which he judged might besides be of great
importance to Portugal, had renewed the inquiries and investigations
that might suggest the means of attaining its accomplishment.
At Pungo Andongo, there lived one Francisco Honorato da Costa,
Lieutenant-Colonel of Militia, a clever man, and Chief of Cassange, the
farthest inland of the Portuguese vassal provinces. Through him Antonio
de Saldanha learnt that the territory of the Jaga, or Soba of Cassange,
was bounded to the east by another and more powerful kingdom, that of
the Moluas, with whom the Jaga was in constant intercourse, but whom he
prevented from treating directly with the Portuguese, so as to derive
the great advantage of monopolizing all the trade with the latter. For
this end the Jaga employed several absurd statements to intimidate the
Muata Yamba, or King of the Moluas, whose power he feared, telling him
that the Portuguese (or white men) issued out of the sea, that they
devoured negroes, that the goods he traded in were manufactured in his
dominions, and that if the Moluas invaded these, the Portuguese would
avenge him.

“As soon as the Governor was informed of these particulars, he ordered
Honorato to make himself acquainted with the position of the nation
of the Moluas. Honorato succeeded in sending his ‘Pombeiros’ (black
traders) to their principal town, where the Muata Yamba resided,
and where they were hospitably received. Convinced by them of the
falsehoods of the Jaga Cassange, the Muata, though still in fear,
decided to send his wife, who lived at some distance off, on an embassy
to the same effect to Loanda. Accompanied by Honorato’s ‘Pombeiros,’
the embassy, unable to pass the territory of the Soba Cassange, through
his opposition, proceeded to the country of the Soba Bomba, who not
only allowed them free passage, but likewise sent an ambassador to the
Portuguese. They arrived in January, 1808, at Loanda, where they were
received in state by the Governor.

“On arriving at the door of the audience-room, they advanced towards
the General with great antics, and delivered to him the presents
they had brought, which consisted of slaves, a zebra skin, several
skins of ‘ferocious monkeys,’ a mat, some straw baskets, two bars of
copper, and a sample of salt from Cazembe. After receiving the greatest
hospitality, they were sent back with presents for their respective
sovereigns. The ambassadors wore long beards, their heads adorned with
a great bunch of parrots’ feathers, grey and red, their arms and legs
covered with brass and iron rings; from a large monkey skin twisted and
hanging from one shoulder depended a large knife,--in their left hand
a spear, in the right a horse’s tail, as an emblem of authority, and
round the waist a striped cloth, over which hung a monkey skin, giving
them altogether a very wild and showy appearance. The ‘Pombeiros’
described the Moluas as a somewhat civilized nation; that the ‘Banza,’
or town of the Muata, was laid out in streets and shaded in summer,
to mitigate the heat of the sun and prevent dust; that they had a
flour and grain market for the housing and regular distribution of
provisions, and many squares or open spaces of large extent.

“The wife of the Muata lived at a distance from him of thirty or forty
leagues, in a country where she reigned as Queen absolute, and only saw
her husband on certain days in the year. The executions in the ‘Banza’
of the Queen amounted to eight, ten, and fifteen blacks per day, and
it is probable that in that of the Muata the number was not less. The
barbarity of their laws, and the want of communications by means of
which to get rid of their criminals, was the cause of this horrible
number of executions.”

Feo Cardozo, who expresses himself most strongly against slavery, here
observes: “Despite the theories and declamation of sensitive minds led
away by false notions of the state of the question, as long as the
barbarity and ignorance of the African nations shall exist, the barter
of slaves will always be considered by enlightened philanthropists
as the only palliative to the ferocity of the laws that govern those

“It was further ascertained from the ‘Pombeiros,’ that the nation of
Cazembe, where Dr. Lacerda had died, was feudatory to the Muata Yamba,
and in token of its vassalage paid him a yearly tribute of sea salt,
obtained from the eastern coast. The possibility of communication with
the east coast through the interior being now evident, the Governor
Saldanha instructed the ‘Pombeiros’ to retrace their steps towards the
east, and continue in that direction.

“It was during the succeeding Governorship of José d’Oliveira Barboza,
however, that the feasibility of such communication was finally
proved, for he sought out a black trader to go to Moçambique across
the interior, and return by the same route, bringing back answers from
the Governor of that Colony to letters sent him from Loanda. This fact
added nothing to geographical knowledge, from the ignorance of the man
who accomplished it.

“In 1813, this Governor formed the plan of conveying the waters of the
River Quanza into the city of Loanda, from a distance of about fourteen
leagues, by means of a canal, which was commenced in that year, and
the workings continued during 1814 and 1815, but abandoned after being
cut for a length of 3000 fathoms, on account of the difficulties
encountered for want of a previous survey.”

No attempt has since been made to supply the city with water from the
Quanza, or from the still nearer River Bengo; besides the great boon
such a work would confer on the hot and dry town, it could not fail to
be a great success from a monetary point of view.

[Illustration: PLATE I.


_To face page 23._]



The Portuguese possessions of Angola on the south-west coast of Africa
extend from Ambriz in 7° 49´ S. Lat. to Cape Frio in 18° 20´ S. Lat.
Their farthest establishment south is, however, at Mossamedes, or
Little Fish Bay, in 15° 20´ S. Lat.

Throughout this book in speaking of Angola I include not only the
country from Mossamedes to Ambriz, at present occupied by the
Portuguese, but farther north, as far as the River Congo, that being
its strong natural limit of climate, fauna, and ethnology, as I shall
further explain.

This long extent of coast comprises, as may be readily imagined,
considerable variety in geological formation, physical configuration,
climate, vegetation, and natural productions, tribes of natives, and
different languages, habits, and customs.

The coast-line is nowhere very bold; level sandy bays, fringed with a
belt of the dark evergreen mangrove, alternate with long stretches of
cliffs, seldom attaining any great height or grandeur, and covered with
a coarse branching grass (_Eragrostis_ sp.), small patches of shrubby
scrub, a tall cactus-like tree Euphorbia, and the gigantic towering
Baobab with its fantastic long gourd-like fruit. (Plate I.)

The “Calema,” or surf-wave, with its ceaseless roar, breaks heavily in
long white lines on the smooth beach, and pulverizes the hardest rock,
and every particle of shell and animal structure. It dashes against the
base of the cliffs, resounding loudly in its mad fury as it has done,
wave after wave and hour after hour, for unknown ages; and the singular
absence of gulls or any moving living objects, or noises, to divert the
eye or ear from the dreadful monotony of constantly recurring sound,
and line after line of dazzling white foam, gives a distinctive and
excessively depressing character to the coast, in harmony, as it were,
with the enervating influence of its climate.

The character of the Angolan landscape is entirely different from that
of the West Coast proper; say from Cape Verde to the Gaboon and the
River Congo. Along that great length of coast are hundreds of square
miles of brackish and salt-water lagoons and swamps, level with the
sea, and often only separated from it by a narrow mangrove-fringed
beach. The bottom of these lagoons is generally a soft deep black
fetid mud, and a stick plunged into it comes up thickly covered with
a mass nearly approaching in appearance to paste blacking. In the dry
season great expanses of the bottom of these swamps become partially
dry, and fermenting in the hot tropical sun cause a horrible stench,
from the decayed millions of small fish, crabs, &c., left exposed on
the surface. The number of fish and some of the lower forms of life
inhabiting the mud and water of the lagoons is almost incredible. If
one keeps quite still for a few minutes, the slimy ground becomes
perfectly alive and hissing from the legions of small brightly coloured
land crabs that issue simultaneously from thousands of round holes,
from the size of a quill to about an inch and a-half in diameter.

It is in these gigantic hotbeds of decomposition that the deadly types
of African fever are, I believe, mostly generated; and these pest
waters and mud, when swept into the rivers by the floods in the rainy
season, are carried far and wide, with what effect to human life on
that coast it is needless to mention.

On those parts of the West Coast where level swampy ground is not
the rule, a most agreeable change is seen in the character of the
landscape, although, perhaps, the climate is just as unhealthy.
Drenched constantly by pelting thunderstorms, and drizzling mists that
roll down from the high lands and mountain-tops, the country is covered
by the most luxuriant forest vegetation, in one expanse of the deepest
unvarying green, the combined result of excessive moisture and the
tropical sun of an almost uninterrupted summer.

This alternation of swamp and dense forest ends completely on arriving
at the River Congo, and a total change to the comparatively arid
country of Angola takes place; in fact, at about 13° S. Lat. it becomes
almost a perfectly arid, rocky, and sandy desert.

I may say that, without exception, from the River Congo to Mossamedes
no dense forest is seen from the sea, and from thence not a single
tree, it is said, for hundreds of miles to the Orange River. A little
mangrove, lining the insignificant rivers and low places in their
vicinity, is all that varies the open scrub, of which the giant
Adansonias and Euphorbias have taken, as it were, exclusive possession.
Nowhere on the coast is seen more than an indication of the wonderful
vegetation, or varied beauty and fertility, which generally begins at a
distance of from thirty to sixty miles inland.

At this distance, a ridge or hilly range runs along the whole length
of Angola, forming the first elevation; a second elevation succeeds it
at about an equal distance; and a third, at perhaps twice the distance
again, lands us on the central high plateau of Africa.

From the few and insignificant streams traversing Angola to the coast,
which at most only reach sufficiently far inland to have their source
at this third elevation or central plateau, it would seem that a great
central depression or fall drains the waters of that part of Africa in
either an easterly or southerly direction.

I think it is very doubtful whether the Congo, with its vast body
of water and rapid current, drains any large extent of country in
an easterly direction to the interior, beyond the first rapids. The
gradual elevation from the coast to the ridge beyond which the central
plateau begins, and from which the streams that drain Angola seem to
have their source, may have been formed by the upheaval of the country
by volcanic action. Of this there is evidence in the trachytes and
basalts of Cambambe and the country to the south of Benguella, which
form an anticlinal axis running the whole length of Angola, and thus
prevent the drainage of the interior to the sea on this part of the

These successive elevations inland are accompanied by very remarkable
changes in the character of the vegetation covering the surface of the
country, and in my several excursions and explorations to the interior
from Ambriz to Bembe, from Loanda to the Pungo Andongo range, from Novo
Redondo to Mucelis, and to the interior of Benguella and Mossamedes,
I have had frequent opportunities of remarking these very singular
and sudden changes. These are due, I believe, as Dr. Welwitsch has
pointed out, to the difference of elevation alone, irrespective of its
geological formation.

A sketch of the vegetation of the country traversed by the road
from Ambriz to Bembe, where is situated the wonderful deposit of
malachite,--a distance of about 120 miles E.N.E.--will give an idea
of the general character of the change observed in travelling towards
the interior of Angola. For about twenty-five miles from Ambriz the
vegetation is, as already described, principally composed of enormous
Baobabs, Euphorbias, a tall Agave (or aloe), a tree called “Muxixe” by
the natives, bearing curious seed-pods (_Sterculia tomentosa_), a few
small slender creepers, great abundance of the _Sansevieria Angolensis_
in the thickets of prickly bushes, and coarse short tufty grasses,--the
branching grass being only found near the coast for a few miles. The
country is pretty level, dry, and stony, of weathered large-grained
gneiss. At Matuta the scene suddenly and magically changes, and in so
striking a manner as to impress even the most unobservant traveller.
The Baobabs become much fewer in number, the Agaves, the Sansevieria,
the Euphorbias, suddenly and almost completely disappear, as also do
most of the prickly shrubs, the fine trailing and creeping plants, the
Muxixe, and several other trees, and a number of smaller plants. A new
set of larger, shadier trees and shrubs take their place, the grass
becomes tall and broad-leaved, and one seems to be travelling in an
entirely new country.

This character is preserved for another stretch of road till Quiballa
is reached, about sixty miles from the coast, where the rise in level
is more marked; and again the vegetation changes, almost as remarkably
as at Matuta, where, however, the difference in altitude is not so
sudden, but a gradual rise is noticed all the way from Ambriz. Creepers
of all kinds, attaining a gigantic size, here almost monopolize the
vegetation, clasping round the biggest trees, and covering them with
a mass of foliage and flower, and forming most exquisite festoons
and curtains as they web, as it were, one tree to another in their
embrace. No words can describe the luxuriance of these tree creepers,
particularly in the vicinity of the shallow rivers and rivulets of
the interior. Several trees together, covered from top to bottom with
a rich mantle of the India-rubber creeper (_Landolphia florida_?),
with bright, large dark-green leaves somewhat resembling those of
the magnolia, thickly studded with large bunches of purest white
jasmine-like flowers, loading the air for a considerable distance with
its powerful bitter-almond perfume, and attracting a cloud of buzzing
insects, form altogether a sight not easily forgotten. Once at Bembe
I saw a perfect wall or curtain formed by a most delicate creeper,
hung from top to bottom with bottle-brush-like flowers about three
inches long;--but the grandest view presented to my eyes was in the
Pungo Andongo range, where the bottom of a narrow valley, for quite
half a mile in length, was filled, as they all are in the interior, by
a dense forest of high trees; the creepers, in search of light, had
pierced through and spread on the top, where their stems and leaves had
become woven and matted into a thick carpet on which their flowers were
produced in such profusion that hardly a leaf was visible, but only one
long sea of beautiful purple, like a glacier of colour--filling the
valley and set in the frame of green of the luxuriant grass-covered
hill sides. The very blacks that accompanied me, so little impressed
as they are usually by the beauties of nature, beat their open mouths
with the palm of the hand as they uttered short “Ah! ah! ahs!” their
universal mode of expressing astonishment or delight, so wonderful,
even to them, appeared the magnificent mass of colour below us as it
suddenly came in view when we arrived at the head of the valley, down
one side of which we descended to the plain below.

I have seen the surface of a large pool of water thickly covered with a
layer of purple pea-shaped flowers, fallen from the large Wistaria-like
bunches of blossom of a creeper overgrowing a mass of trees standing
at the edge: it seemed as if Nature, loth that so much beauty should
fade quickly, had kept for some time longer the fallen flowers fresh
and lovely on the cool still water of the shady lake. This abundance
of creeping plants is more or less preserved till at about sixty miles
farther inland we arrive at Bembe and the comparatively level country
stretching away to the interior; the oil-palm (_Elæis Guineensis_)
then becomes again abundant, these trees being only found on the coast
in any number in the vicinity of the rivers; the beautiful feathery
papyrus also again covers the lagoons and wet places.

The comparatively short and spare thin-leaved and delicate tufted
grasses of the first or littoral region are succeeded in the second, as
I have already said, by much stronger kinds, attaining an extraordinary
development in the highest or third region. Gigantic grasses from five
to as much as sixteen feet high, growing luxuriantly, cover densely
the vast plains and tracts of country in these two regions where tree
vegetation is scarce. The edges of the blades of most of these tall
grasses are so stiff and finely and strongly serrated as to be quite
sharp, and if passed quickly over the skin will cause a deep cut, as
clean as if done with a knife; one species is called by the natives
“Capim de faca” in Portuguese, or “knife grass,” from the manner in
which it cuts if handled, or in going through it.

I have often had my hands bleeding from cuts inflicted by this grass
when in going down steep, dry, slippery places I have clutched at the
high grass on each side of me to prevent falling. To any one accustomed
to grass only a few inches high, the dimensions that these species
attain are simply incredible. Like snow and ice in northern latitudes,
grasses in interior tropical Africa for some six months in the year
take undisputed possession of the country and actually interrupt all
communication in many places.

It is a very strange feeling when travelling in a hammock, to be forced
through grass so dense and so high that nothing but the sky above can
be seen,--a wall of dry rustling leaves on each side shutting out all
view sometimes for mile after mile, and so intensely hot and breathless
as to be almost unbearable, causing the perspiration to run in drops
off the wet, shining, varnished skins of the almost naked blacks. In
going through places where the grass has nearly choked up all signs of
a path, it is necessary to send in advance all the blacks of the party,
so as to open aside and widen it sufficiently to allow the traveller in
his hammock to be carried and pushed through the dense high mass: even
if there be a moderate breeze blowing it is, of course, completely shut
out; the perspiration from the negroes is wiped on the grass as they
push through it, now shoving it aside with their hands and arms, now
forcing their way through it backwards, and it is most disagreeable
to have the wetted leaves constantly slapping one’s face and hands, to
say nothing of the horrible stink from their steaming bodies. It is a
powerful odour, and the quiet hot air becomes so impregnated with it
as to be nearly overpowering. It is difficult to compare it with any
other disagreeable animal smell; it is different from that of the white
race, and the nearest comparison I can give is a mixture of putrid
onions and rancid butter well rubbed on an old billy-goat. In some it
is a great deal worse than in others, but none, men or women, are free
from it, even when their bodies are at rest or not sensibly perspiring;
and it being a natural secretion of the skin, of course no amount of
washing or cleanliness will remove it. The mulattoes, again, have it,
but different, and not generally so strong as the pure black, and with
a more acid odour, reminding one strongly of the caprylic and similar
acids known to chemists. The natives themselves naturally do not notice
it, and after some time of residence in the country, except in very
powerful cases, strangers become comparatively accustomed to it, and,
as showing how a person may in time become used to nastiness, I have
even partaken of a dish in which were some forcemeat balls that I had
previously watched the negro cook roll with the palm of his hand on his
naked stomach, to make them of a proper round shape, without spoiling
my appetite or preventing me from joining in the deserved praise of the
stew that contained them.

The Portuguese and Brazilians call the smell that exhales from the
bodies of the blacks “Catinga,” and I witnessed an amusing instance
of its effect on a dog, when it smelt it for the first time. On my
second voyage to Angola, I took with me a beautiful “perdigueiro,” or
Portuguese pointer, from Lisbon; this animal had evidently never smelt
a negro before our arrival at Ilha do Principe (Prince’s Island); for,
on two of the blacks from the custom-house boat coming on the poop, it
began sniffing the air at some distance from where they were standing,
and carefully and slowly approached them with its neck and nose at full
stretch, with a look on its intelligent face of the greatest curiosity
and surprise. On approaching within three or four yards, the smell of
the blacks, who kept quite still, being afraid it might bite them,
seemed too much for its sensitive nose, and it sneezed and looked
perfectly disgusted. It continued to approach them and sneeze and
retreat repeatedly for some little time, evidently unable to get used
to the powerful perfume. The poor dog’s unmistakeable expression of
thorough dislike to the odour of the black race was most comical.

An old Brazilian mule that I had at Benguella could not bear the blacks
to saddle her or put her bridle and head-gear on; she would throw back
her ears, and suddenly make a snap with her teeth at the black who
attempted it. She was a very tame animal, and would be perfectly quiet
to a white man. She had been seventeen years in Benguella before she
came into my possession, but never became used to negroes; whether she
disliked them from their disagreeable odour, or from some other reason,
I could not discover; but, judging from the dog’s decided antipathy,
I presume their smell was her principal objection, and yet it is very
singular that wild animals in Africa will scent a white sooner than
a black hunter. I have heard this from many persons in Angola, both
blacks and whites. It would be interesting to know if our hunters at
the Cape have noticed the same thing. The fact that, notwithstanding
the “Catinga,” black hunters can lie in ambush, and antelope and other
game come so close to them that they can fire the whole charge of their
flint muskets, wadding and all, into them, is well known in Angola.

Whilst exploring for minerals in Cambambe, I was prevented for a
long time from visiting several localities, from the paths to them
being choked up with grass. It is difficult to imagine how exhausting
it is to push through thick, high grass; in a very short time one
becomes completely out of breath, and the arms hang powerless with the
exertion: the heat and suffocating stillness of the air may have as
much to do with this as the amount of force exerted to push aside the
yielding, rustling mass.

Shortly after the rains cease in May, the grass, having flowered and
attained its full growth, rapidly dries up under the hot sun, and is
then set on fire by the blacks, forming the wonderful “Queimadas,”
literally “burnings,” of the Portuguese, and “smokes” of the English in
the Bights. If only the leaves are sufficiently dry to catch fire, the
stems are left green, with a black ring at every joint or base of the
leaf, and the mass of whip-like stems then looks like a forest of long
porcupine quills. This is very disagreeable to travel through, as the
half-burnt stems spring back and cross in every direction behind the
front bearer of the hammock, and poke into the traveller’s face, and
thrash the hands when held up to save the eyes from injury, and after
a day’s journey one gets quite black, with eyes and throat sore and
parched from the charcoal dust and fine alkaline ash.

When the grass has become thoroughly dry, the effect of the “Queimada”
is indescribably grand and striking. In the daytime the line of fire
is marked by a long cloud of beautiful white steam-like smoke curling
slowly up, dense and high in the breathless air, in the most fantastic
forms against the clear blue sky. This cloud of smoke is closely
accompanied by a perfect flock of rapacious birds of every size and
description, from the magnificent eagle to the smallest hawk, circling
and sailing high and grandly in the air, and now and then swooping
down upon the unfortunate rats, mice, and small animals, snakes, and
other reptiles, burnt and left exposed by the conflagration. Near the
blazing grass the scene is very fine, a deafening noise is heard as
of thousands of pistol shots, caused by the imprisoned air bursting
every joint of the long stems, and the loud rush and crackling of the
high sheet of flame, as it catches and consumes the dry upright straw.
One is inspired with awe and a feeling of puny insignificance before
the irresistible march of the flames that are rapidly destroying the
enormous extent of the dense, nearly impenetrable mass of vegetation
covering the surface of the country, leaving it perfectly bare with the
exception of a few charred root stumps of grass, and a few stunted,
scorched shrubs and trees. At night the effect is wonderfully fine:
the vast wall of fire is seen over hill and valley, as far as the eye
can reach; above the brilliant leaping flames, so bright in the clear
atmosphere of the tropical night, vast bodies of red sparks are shot up
high into the cloud of smoke, which is of the most magnificent lurid
hue from the reflection of the grand blaze below.

No trees or shrubs are consumed by the burning of the grasses,
everything of a larger growth being too green to take fire; a whitening
or drying of the leaves is generally the only effect even where the
light annual creepers growing on them have been consumed. Forest
or jungle in Angola, unlike other countries, never burns, and is
consequently the refuge of all the larger animals and birds from the
“Queimadas,” which are undoubtedly the cause in many parts of Angola of
the great scarcity of animal and insect life which strikes a traveller
expecting to meet everywhere the great abundance known to exist in the

Great is the alarm of the natives on the near approach of these fires
to their towns, the whole population turning out, and with branches
of trees beating out the fire. It is seldom, however, that their huts
are consumed, as the villages are generally situated in places where
trees and shrubs abound, and the different huts are mostly separated by
hedges of different species of Euphorbiaceæ. Many villages are entirely
surrounded by a thick belt of these milky-juiced plants, effectually
guarding them from any chance of fire from the grass outside. Where the
huts are not thus protected, the danger, of course, is very great, but
the natives sometimes take the precaution of setting fire to patches
of the grass to clear a space around the huts or village. There is no
danger in travelling from these grass fires, for, when they are seen
approaching, their rate of progress being slow, it is sufficient to set
fire to the dry grass to leeward to clear a space in which to encamp in

The change in vegetation is also accompanied by difference of climate,
but it is difficult to say whether they react on each other, and if
so, in what proportion. The rains are very much more abundant and
constant towards the interior of the country, where the vegetation is
densest: on the coast the rains are generally very deficient, and some
seasons entirely fail; this is more especially the case south of about
12° Lat., several successive rainy seasons passing without a single
drop of rain falling. A three years’ drought in the interior of Loanda
is still vividly remembered, the inhabitants, from their improvident
habits, perishing miserably by thousands from starvation. In my mining
explorations at Benguella, I was at Cuio under a cloudless sky for
twenty-six months, in the years 1863 and 1864, with hardly a drop of
water falling.

I had under my charge at that time twenty-four white men, and between
400 and 600 blacks at work on a copper deposit, mining and carrying
ore to the coast, distant about four miles; and no one accustomed to
a constant supply of water, can imagine the anxiety and work I had to
go through to obtain the necessary amount for that large number of
thirsty people, very often barely sufficient for drinking purposes; no
water fit for drinking or cooking was to be had nearer than six miles,
and as no bullock carts could be employed, it had all to be carried in
kegs on men’s shoulders, and by a troop of the most miserable, small,
idiotically stubborn donkeys that can be imagined from the Cape de
Verde Islands. It was impossible always to be looking after the blacks
told off daily on water duty, and words cannot express the annoyance
and vexation that the rascals constantly caused us, by getting drunk on
the road, wilfully damaging the kegs, selling the water to natives on
their way back, bringing the filthiest water out of muddy pools instead
of clear from the proper place, sleeping on the road, and keeping all
waiting, sometimes without a drop of water, very often till far into
the night. This was no joke when we were thirsty, hungry, dusty, and
tired, after a hot day’s work blasting rock, breaking up copper ore
in the sun at the mine in the bottom of a circular valley, where the
little air above seldom reached, and where the dazzling white sand and
gneiss rock, bare of nearly all vegetation, reflected and intensified
the glare and heat almost unbearably in the hot season.

In going from north to south the character of the vegetation changes
very insensibly from the River Congo to Mossamedes. As far as
Ambrizzette the Mateba palm (_Hyphæne Guineensis_) is very abundant.
This palm-tree, unlike the oil-palm, which is only found near water,
or in rich soil, grows on the dry cliffs and country of the littoral
region very abundantly as far as about Ambriz. The leaves of this
palm-tree are employed to make small bags, in which most of the
ground-nuts are exported from the coast. The Cashew-tree (_Anacardium
occidentale_) grows on this part of the coast from Congo to Ambrizzette
still more abundantly, in many places there being hardly any other tree
or shrub; it is also very plentiful again around Loanda, but to the
south it nearly disappears. A thin stemmy Euphorbia, nearly leafless,
is a principal feature of the landscape about Loanda, and gives it a
very dull and arid appearance. The cactus-like, upright Euphorbia is a
notable characteristic of the whole coast of Angola.

South of Benguella the country is extremely arid, the gneiss, gypsum,
and basalt, of which it is principally composed, appearing only to
afford nourishment to a very limited vegetation, both in number or
species, principally spiny trees and shrubs with numbers of dreadful
recurved prickles, nearly bare of leaves a great part of the year,--and
over immense tracts of very uneven ground even these are scarce: only
the gigantic Euphorbias, and the stunted roots of grass sparingly
distributed, break the monotony of a silent, dry, rocky desert.

A very curious creeper, a species of Cassytha, is extremely abundant
in Benguella, covering the shrubs and small trees closely with its
network of leafless string-like stems. The _Sansevieria Angolensis_ is
very plentiful all over the littoral region of Angola; the flat-leaved
species (_S. longiflora_) is only noticed north from Ambriz to Congo,
and only growing very near the sea: the S. Angolensis is but rarely
seen with it, and it is very curious how distinctly these two species
are separated. In the immediate vicinity of all the rivers and streams
of Angola the vegetation is, as might be expected, generally very
luxuriant, particularly north of Benguella.

The total absence of horned cattle among the natives on the coast,
from the River Congo to south of the River Quanza, is very remarkable;
due, I believe, as much to some influence of climate, or poisonous or
irritant nature of the vegetation, as to the neglect of the natives
to breed them, though a few small herds of cattle to be seen at
Ambrizzette and Quissembo belonging to the white traders, and brought
by the natives far from the interior, appear to thrive very well, and
several Portuguese have bred fine herds at the River Loge, about three
miles from Ambriz; they would not thrive, however, at Bembe, where
those that were purchased from the ivory caravans from the interior
gradually became thin and died. The natives south of the Quanza beyond
the Quissama country, as far as Mossamedes, breed large numbers of
cattle--their principal wealth, in fact, consisting of their herds.
The district of Loanda cannot supply itself with cattle sufficient for
its moderate consumption, a large proportion having to be brought from
Cambambe and Pungo Andongo and even much farther from the interior.

South of the Congo there is only one navigable river, the Quanza, in 9°
20´ S., and even the bar and mouth of this are shifty, and so shallow
as only to admit vessels drawing not more than five or six feet of
water, and this only at high tides. The Rivers Dande and Bengo are only
navigable by barges for a few miles; others, such as the Ambrizzette,
Loge, Novo Redondo, Quicombo, Egito, Anha, Catumbella, and Luache,
barely admit the entrance of a canoe, and their bars are often closed
for a considerable time in the dry season; the beds of others are
completely dried up for miles inland at that time of the year, and it
is very curious to see the level sandy bed without water between the
luxuriant and creeper-covered banks, and the borders of sedge and grass.

Although dry on the surface, cool delicious water is met with at a few
inches below. I shall never forget, on my first journey into Cambambe,
the haste with which we pushed forward, on an intensely hot morning,
in order to arrive at the River Mucozo, a small stream running into
the Quanza. We had encamped the night before at a place where only a
small supply of water was to be had from a filthy and muddy hole, and
so thick and ochrey was it that, even after boiling and straining,
it was nearly undrinkable; on reaching the high banks of the Mucozo,
great was my disappointment to see the bed of the river one long
expanse of dry sand shining in the hot sun, and my hope of water, as
I thought, gone! Not so the blacks, who raised a loud shout as they
caught sight of it, dashed in a race down the banks, and throwing
themselves on the sand quickly scooped out a hole about six inches deep
with their hands, and lying flat on their bellies stuck their faces in
it, and seemed never to finish drinking to their hearts’ content the
inexpressibly refreshing, cool, filtered water. After having only dirty
and thick water to drink, not improved by coffee or bad rum, after a
long, hot day’s journey, tired and exhausted, the ground for a bed,
mosquitoes, and a smoky fire on each side to keep them off, fleas and
other biting things from the sand, that nip and sting but are not seen
or caught, snatches of sleep, feverish awakening in the morning, with
parched mouth, the perspiration dried on the face and skin, gritty
and crystallized and salt to the feel and taste, no water to drink or
wash with, the sun out and shining strong again almost as soon as it
is daylight, and hurry, hurry, through dry grass and sand without a
breath of air, and with the thermometer at 90° in the shade, for four
or five hours before we reached the Mucozo--it was no wonder I was
disinclined to move from the place till the afternoon came, and the
great heat of the day was passed; or that I thought the water, fresh
and cold from its clean sandy bed, the most delicious drink that could
be imagined!

The delight of a drink of pure cold water in hot climates has over and
over again been described by all travellers, but it is impossible to
realize it fully without experiencing the sensations that precede and
cause the thirst that only cold water seems to satisfy.

The River Luache, at Dombe Grande, near the sea, in the province of
Benguella, is dry for some miles inland every year, and its bed of
pure, clean, deep sand is as much as half a mile broad at that place.
The first great rains in the interior generally come down the dry
beds of these rivers suddenly, like a great torrent or wave, and I
was fortunate enough to be at Dombe Grande once when the water came
down the Luache from the interior. It was a grand sight to see a wave
the whole breadth of the river, and I should judge about eight feet
high, driving before and carrying with it an immense mass of trees
and branches, roots, sedges, and grasses all confused and rolling
irresistibly to the sea, with a dull rushing roar, quite unlike the
noise one would imagine a body of water to make, but more like a
rush of rocks down a mountain in the distance; and very strange and
agreeable was the change in the landscape--a broad desert of white sand
suddenly transformed into a vast running river of fresh water, bringing
gladness to all living things.

The sandy bars of some of the other small rivers of Angola become
closed sometimes for several months, but the stream remains of about
the same volume, or opens out into a pool or lake, or partly dries up
into lovely sedgy pools inhabited by wild-fowl of various kinds, and
fields of beautiful aquatic grasses and papyrus plants, in which I
have often seen caught by hand the singular fresh-water fish “Bagre”
(_Clarias Capensis_, _Bagrus_, &c.) vigorously alive, left behind by
the diminishing waters, in grassy swampy places where the foot hardly
sank ankle deep in water, and where it was certainly not deep enough
to cover them. The dry sandy beds of rivers in the rainless season
are often completely covered with a magnificent growth of the Palma
Christi, or Castor Oil plant, with its beautiful large leaves. This
I have noticed more particularly in the district of Novo Redondo and

Sharks, so frightfully dangerous in the surf of the West Coast, are
unknown south of the River Congo. I have never heard of a person being
attacked by one, although at Loanda the white population bathe off
the island in front of the town, and blacks dabble about in the sea
everywhere, and swim to and from the boats and barges.

No strikingly high mountain, I believe, exists in Angola; no hills of
any great importance till we arrive at the first rise, which, as we
have seen, extends the whole length of Angola at a distance of from
thirty to sixty miles from the sea. The second and third elevations
contain some fine mountain or hill ranges, as at Bembe, Pungo Andongo,
Cazengo, Mucellis, and Capangombe. To the south of Benguella as far as
Mossamedes flat-topped or table hills, perfectly bare of vegetation,
are a very prominent feature, seen from the sea; they are of basalt,
and are about 200 or 300 feet in height, and are in many places the
only remains left of a higher level. In others, this higher level still
exists for a considerable extent, deeply cut by narrow gorges and
ravines leading towards the sea, with nearly perpendicular sides.



The River Congo, or Zaire, is a very striking and well-marked line
of division or boundary, in respect of climate, fauna, natives and
customs, between Angola and the rest of the West Coast.

The difference in the scenery and vegetation from those of the north is
very great indeed, and not less so is that of the birds and animals.
I have noticed enough to convince me that it would well repay a
naturalist to investigate the number of species this river cuts off,
as it were, from Angola; the gorilla and chimpanzee, for instance, are
only known north of the Congo; they are found at Loango and Landana,
and from reports of the natives, even near to the river itself; many
species of monkeys, very abundant at Cabinda and on the north bank,
are quite unknown in Angola; and the ordinary grey parrot, which is to
be seen in flocks on the Congo, is also unknown to the south--the only
exception to this rule, as far as I have been able to ascertain, being
at Cassange, about 300 miles to the interior of Loanda, where the rare
“King parrot,” with red feathers irregularly distributed among the grey
ones, is not uncommon. Of small birds I have noticed many at Cabinda
that I never observed in Angola; the same with butterflies, and other

The Congo is very deep, and the current is always very strong;
even above Boma (or M’Boma), about ninety miles distant from the
sea, the river is a vast body of water and the current still very
swift. From the mouth to beyond this place the banks are deeply cut
into innumerable creeks and rivers, and form many large islands.
The enormous quantity of fresh water poured by this river into the
sea gives rise to many curious speculations as to its extent and
probable sources. I am inclined to believe that the River Congo, or
its principal branch, after going in a north-east direction for a
comparatively short distance, bends to the southward, and will be
found to run for many degrees in that direction.

In the preceding chapter we have seen that south of the Congo no river
deserving of that name, or draining more than the country up to the
third elevation, exists in Angola. The vast country from the River
Congo to perhaps the Orange River, or about 1200 miles, has therefore
no outfall for its waters into the Atlantic Ocean.

The existence of volcanic rocks in Cambambe and Mossamedes appears
to explain the elevation of this part of the coast; how much farther
to the south this elevation has taken place is as yet unknown, and I
can only reconcile the vast body of water of the River Congo with the
absence of any large river farther south, by supposing it to bend down
and drain the long line of country upheaved on the seaboard: it is not
likely to drain much country to the north from the existence of several
rivers such as the Chiloango, Quillo, Massabi, and Mayumba, in a
distance of about 360 miles from its mouth to that of the River Gaboon
under the Equator.

For many years, and up to about the year 1868, the Congo was the
principal shipping place for slaves on the South-West Coast, the large
number of creeks in it affording safe hiding-places for loading the
ships engaged in the traffic, and the swift current enabling them to go
out quickly a long way to sea, and clear the line of cruisers. Boma was
the centre or point for the caravans of slaves coming from different
parts of the interior, and there was little or no trade in produce.

It may not be out of place here to say a few words on the slave-trade
of the South Coast, because a great deal of ignorance and misconception
exists on the subject from judging of it as having been similar to
the slave-trade in North and East Africa. Repugnant and wicked as is
the idea of slavery and dealing in human flesh, philanthropy must be
debited with an amount of unknowing cruelty and wholesale sacrifice
of life perfectly awful to contemplate, as a set-off against its
well-intentioned and successful efforts to put a stop to slavery and
the known horrors of the middle passage, and subsequent ill-treatment
at the hands of the planters.

In no part of Angola or among tribes to the interior have slave-hunts
ever existed as in the north; there are no powerful or more civilized
nations making war on weaker tribes for the purpose of obtaining
slaves, and devastating the country by fire and sword. There is very
little cruelty attending the state of slavery among the natives of
Angola, I believe I may say even in the greater part of the rest of
tropical Africa, but I will restrict myself to the part of which I have
an intimate knowledge. It is a domestic institution, and has existed,
as at present, since time immemorial; and there is no more disgrace or
discredit in having been born of slave parents, and consequently in
being a slave, than there is in Europe in being born of dependents or
servants of an ancestral house, and continuing in its service in the
same manner.

There is something patriarchal in the state of bondage among the
negroes, if we look at it from an African point of view (I must again
impress on my readers that all my remarks apply to Angola). The free
man, or owner, and his wife, have to supply their slaves with proper
food and clothing; to tend them in sickness as their own children, to
get them husbands or wives, as the case may be, to supply them with the
means of celebrating their festivals, such as their marriages, births,
or burials, in nearly the same way as amongst themselves; the slaves,
in fact, are considered as their family, and are always spoken of as
“my son,” or “my daughter.” If the daughters of slaves are chosen as
wives or concubines by their owners or other free men, it is considered
an honour, and their children, though looked upon as slaves, are
entitled to special consideration.

There is consequently no cruelty or hardship attending the state of
slavery; a male slave cannot be made by his master to cultivate the
ground, which is women’s work, and the mistress and her slaves till the
ground together.

A stranger set down in Angola, and not aware of the existence of
slavery, would hardly discover that such an institution prevailed
so universally amongst them, so little apparent difference is there
between the master and slave. A not very dissimilar condition of things
existed in the feudal times in England and other countries. Yet many
hundred thousand slaves were brought down to the coast to be sold to
the white men and shipped off, and I will now explain how this was the
case, paradoxical though it may appear after what I have just said.
The number was partly made up of surplus slave population sold off by
the owners, probably from inability to feed or clothe them; cases of
famine from failure of the crops, from drought, &c., a common local
occurrence, also supplied large numbers of slaves; but by far the
greatest part were furnished by the effect of their own laws, almost
every offence being punishable by slavery, to which not only the guilty
party, but even in many cases every member of his family was liable.

Offences against property are especially visited by the severe
penalties of slavery, fine, or death. Any one caught in the act of
stealing, be the amount ever so small, becomes at once the property
or slave of the person robbed. It is a common thing to see blacks
working in chains at factories and houses where they have been caught
stealing, the custom among the Europeans generally being to detain them
until their relatives shall have paid a ransom for them. I must do the
natives the justice to say that they are very observant of their own
laws, even to a white man alone in their territory, who claims their
protection against offenders. Certain offences that we should consider
trifling, are by some tribes visited with heavy punishment, such as
stealing Indian corn whilst growing, or an egg from under a sitting
hen. In other tribes breaking a plate or other article of crockery is
a great offence: this is especially the case to the interior of Novo
Redondo, where the punishment is death or slavery.

I was told there of the amusing manner in which a Portuguese trader
turned the tables on a Soba, or chief of a town, where he had
established himself, and who annoyed him greatly by his constant
demands for presents, by placing a cracked plate under a sheet on
his bed, on which the Soba was in the habit of sitting during his
too frequent visits. On the Soba sitting down as usual, on the trap
prepared for him, he, of course, smashed the plate to atoms, to his
great surprise; frightened at the possible result of the accident,
he humbly begged the trader not to let a soul in the place know of
it, promising restitution; the wished-for result of the scheme was
attained, as he ceased all his importunities during the remainder of
the trader’s stay in the country.

But all these sources of slaves for shipment were but a fraction of
the number supplied by their belief in witchcraft. Witchcraft is their
principal, or only belief; every thing that happens has been brought
about by it; all cases of drought, sickness, death, blight, accident,
and even the most trivial circumstances are ascribed to the evil
influence of witchery or “fetish.”

A “fetish” man is consulted, and some poor unfortunate accused and
either killed at once or sold into slavery, and, in most cases, all
his family as well, and every scrap of their property confiscated and
divided amongst the whole town; in other cases, however, a heavy fine
is imposed, and inability to pay it also entails slavery; the option of
trial by ordeal is sometimes afforded the accused, who often eagerly
demand it, such is their firm belief in it.

This extremely curious and interesting ordeal is by poison, which is
prepared from the thick, hard bark of a large tree, the _Erythrophlæum
Guineense_ (Oliver, ‘Flora of Tropical Africa,’ ii. 320). Dr. Brunton
has examined the properties of this bark, and finds that it possesses
a very remarkable action. The powder, when inhaled, causes violent
sneezing; the aqueous extract, when injected under the skin of
animals, causes vomiting, and has a remarkable effect upon the vagus
nerve, which it first irritates and then paralyses. The irritation of
this nerve makes the heart beat slowly. (Fuller details may be found
in the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society’ for this year.) It is called
“casca” by the natives, and I obtained a specimen at Bembe, which was
brought to me concealed in rags, by a half-witted water-carrier in my
service, and he procured it for me only after my promising him that I
would not tell anyone. He said it was from a tree growing about half a
day’s journey off, but I could not get him to take me to it. The other
blacks denied all knowledge of it, and said it was “fetish” for anyone
to have it in his possession. On two occasions afterwards, I obtained
some more specimens from natives of Cabinda, where the tree is said to
be abundant, and the natives very fond of referring all their disputes
and accusations to its decision.

“Casca” is prepared by the bark being ground on a stone to a fine
powder, and mixed with about half a pint of cold water, a piece about
two inches square being said to be a dose. It either acts as an emetic
or as a purgative; should the former effect take place, the accused is
declared innocent, if the latter, he is at once considered guilty, and
either allowed to die of the poison, which is said to be quick in its
action, or immediately attacked with sticks and clubs, his head cut off
and his body burnt.

All the natives I inquired of agreed in their description of the
effect produced on a person poisoned by this bark; his limbs are first
affected and he loses all power over them, falls to the ground, and
dies quickly; without much apparent suffering.

It is said to be in the power of the “fetish” man to prepare the
“casca” mixture in such a manner as to determine which of the effects
mentioned shall be produced; in case of a dispute, both parties drink
it, and according as he allows the mixture to settle, and gives one
the clear liquid and the other the dregs, so does it produce vomiting
in the former, and acts as a purgative in the latter case. I have very
little doubt that as the “fetish” man is bribed or not, so he can and
does prepare it.

The Portuguese in Angola strictly prohibit the use of “casca,” and
severely punish any natives concerned in a trial by this bark, but it
is nevertheless practised in secret everywhere.

The occasion of the test is one of great excitement, and is accompanied
by much cruelty. In some tribes the accused, after drinking the potion,
has to stoop and pass under half-a-dozen low arches made by bending
switches and sticking both ends into the ground; should he fall down in
passing under any of the arches, that circumstance alone is sufficient
to prove him guilty, without waiting for the purgative effect to be

Before the trial the accused is confined in a hut, closely guarded,
and the night before it is surrounded by all the women and children
of the neighbouring towns, dancing and singing to the horrid din of
their drums and rattles. On the occasion of the ordeal the men are all
armed with knives, matchets, and sticks, and the moment the poor devil
stumbles in going under one of the switches, he is instantly set upon
by the howling multitude and beaten to death, and cut and hacked to
pieces in a few minutes. I was at Mangue Grande on one occasion when
a big dance was going on the night before a poor wretch was to take
“casca.” I went to the town with some of the traders at that place,
and we offered to ransom him, but to no purpose; nothing, they said,
could save him from the trial. I learnt, however, that he passed it
successfully, but I think I never heard such a hideous yelling as the
400 or 500 women and children were making round the hut, almost all
with their faces and bodies painted red and white, dancing in a perfect
cloud of dust, and the whole scene illuminated by blazing fires of dry
grass under a starlit summer sky.

The most insignificant and extraordinary circumstances are made the
subject of accusations of witchcraft, and entail the usual penalties.

I was at Ambrizzette when three Cabinda women had been to the river
with their pots for water; all three were filling them from the stream
together, when the middle one was snapped up by an alligator, and
instantly carried away under the surface of the water, and of course
devoured. The relatives of the poor woman at once accused the other
two of bewitching her, and causing the alligator to take her out of
their midst! When I remonstrated with them, and attempted to show
them the utter absurdity of the charge, their answer was, “Why did not
the alligator take one of the end ones then, and not the one in the
middle?” and out of this idea it was impossible to move them, and the
poor women were both to take “casca.” I never heard the result, but
most likely one or both were either killed or passed into slavery.

At a place near the mountain range of Pungo Andongo, about 150 miles
inland of Loanda, I was once the amused spectator at a curious trial
of a man for bewitching the spirit of his dead wife. Her sister, it
appeared, suffered from violent headaches, and sleepless nights, which
were said to be caused by the wife’s spirit being unable to rest, on
account of the widower being a wizard. A large circle of spectators
was formed round the sick sister, who was squatting on the ground; a
fetish man was beating a drum, and singing, or rather droning, some
incantation; after a little while, the woman began to give short yelps,
and to close her eyes, and on being interrogated by the fetish man,
said the spirit of her sister had spoken to her, and that she could
not rest until her husband had made restitution of her two goats and
her baskets, &c., which he had appropriated, and which she had desired
should be given to her sister. The man instantly rose, and brought the
goats, baskets, clothes, &c., and laid them before his sister-in-law,
and the trial was over. If he had denied the accusation, he would
inevitably have had to take “casca.”

When we consider the great population of the vast country that supplied
the slave trade of the coast, and that, as I have explained, the
state of their laws and customs renders all transgressions liable to
slavery, the absence of necessity for the slave wars and hunts of the
north of Africa and other extensive and thinly populated districts is
sufficiently proved. I have been unable to collect positive information
as to the statistics of the slaves shipped in Angola (from Congo to
Benguella inclusively), but the number could not have been far short of
100,000 per annum. I was told by some of the old inhabitants, that to
see as many as ten to twelve vessels loading at a time at Loanda and
Benguella was a common occurrence. At the time of the last shipments
from Benguella, about ten years ago, I have seen as many as 1000
slaves arrive in one caravan from the interior, principally from Bihé.

Up to within a very few years there existed a marble arm-chair on
the wharf at the custom-house at Loanda, where the bishop, in the
slave-trading times, was wont to sit, to baptize and bless the batches
of poor wretches as they were sent off in barge-loads to the vessels
in the harbour. The great slaughter now going on in a great part of
Africa, which I have mentioned as the result of the suppression of
the slave shipments from the coast, can now be understood; whereas
formerly they were sent to the coast to be sold to the white men and
exported, they are now simply murdered. On the road down from Bembe in
April last, we passed the ashes and bones of a black who had stolen
a trade-knife, a bit of iron in a small wooden handle, and made in
Germany at the rate of a few shillings per gross, and passed on the
coast in trade; on the top of his staff was stuck his skull and the
knife he had stolen, a ghastly and lasting warning to passersby of the
strict laws of the country respecting property.

If a famine overtakes any part of the country, a common occurrence,
the slaves are simply taken out and knocked on the head to save them
from starvation. I was told by the natives that the slaves offered no
resistance to that fate, but accepted it as inevitable, and preferable
to the pangs of hunger, knowing that it was no use going to the coast
to save their lives at the hands of the white men by being shipped as
slaves. At Musserra, three Cabinda blacks from the boats’ crews joined
three natives in robbing one of the factories: on complaint being made
to the king and principal men of the town, they marched off the three
Cabindas, promising to punish them, which they did by cutting off their
heads, unknown to the white men; they then brought the three natives
to deliver up to the traders as their slaves, but on these refusing
to accept them, and demanding that a severe punishment should also be
passed on them, they quietly tied a large stone to their necks, took
them out in a canoe to the bay, and dropped them into the sea.

It is impossible to reclaim the hordes of savages inhabiting the
interior even of Angola from their horrid customs and their disregard
for life; the insalubrity of the country, though it is infinitely
superior in this respect to the rest of the West Coast, would be an
almost insuperable bar to their improvement; their own progress is
still more hopeless. In my opinion, it would be necessary that tropical
Africa should undergo a total physical revolution, that the long line
of unhealthy coast should be upheaved, and the deadly leagues of
pestiferous swamps be thus drained, before the country would be fitted
for the existence of a higher type of mankind than the present negro

It can only have been by countless ages of battling with malaria,
that they have been reduced physically and morally to their present
wonderful state or condition of withstanding successfully the climatic
influences, so fatal to the white and more highly organized race--the
sun and fevers of their malignant and dismal mangrove swamps, or
the mists and agues of their magnificent tropical forests, no more
affecting them than they do the alligators and countless mosquitoes
that swarm in the former, or the monkeys and snakes that inhabit the
latter. It is really astonishing to see the naked negro, without a
particle of covering on his head (often shaved), in the full blaze of
the fierce sun, his daily food a few handfuls of ground-nuts, beans,
or mandioca-root, and very often most unwholesome water for drink. At
night he throws himself on the ground, anywhere, covers himself with
a thin grass or cotton cloth, nearly transparent in texture, without
a pillow, like a dog, and awakes in the morning generally wet through
with the heavy dew, and does not suffer the least pain or inconvenience
from the climate from infancy to old age unless his lungs become

The way babies are treated would be enough to kill a white child. The
women when at work on the plantations generally place them on a heap
of grass or on the ground, and are not at all particular to put them
in the shade, and I have often seen them naked and filthy, and covered
with a thick mass of large buzzing flies over their faces and bodies,
fast asleep, with the sun shining full on them. The women, in carrying
them tied behind their backs, seldom include their little heads in
the cloth that secures them, but leave them to swing and loll about
helplessly in every direction with the movement of walking.

Children, of any age, seldom cry, and when they do it is a kind of
howl; when hurt or punished, they very rarely shed tears, or sob, but
keep up a monotonous noise, which would never be imagined to be the
crying of a child, but rather a song.

I once saw, in one of the market-places in Loanda, a boy of about
sixteen lying on the ground, nearly naked, with his face and body
covered with flies, but none of the busy thronging crowd had thought
that he was dead and stiff, as I discovered when I touched him with
my foot, but thought he was simply asleep and basking in the sun: his
being covered with flies was too trivial a circumstance to attract any

The manner in which negroes receive most severe wounds, with apparently
little pain and absence of nervous shock, is most extraordinary. I have
often been told of this by the Portuguese surgeons, who remark the
absence of shock to the system with which negroes undergo amputations
and other severe operations (without chloroform), which are attended
by so much danger to the white race. I was staying at Ambrizzette when
a man came there with his right hand blown to a mass of shreds, from
the explosion of a gun-barrel; he was accompanied by his relatives, who
took him to the different factories to beg the white men to cut off
the hanging shreds of flesh and dress the injured part. All refused to
attend to the man, till a Frenchman gave them a sharp razor, arnica,
and balsam, and some bandages, and made them go out of the house
and enclosure to operate on the sufferer themselves, away from the
factories; which they did. About an hour after I was passing a group
of natives sitting round a fire, and amongst them was the wounded man
laughing and joking quite at his ease, and with his left hand roasting
ground-nuts with the rest, as if nothing had happened to him.

The reason the white men refused to help the wounded black was not
from want of charity or pity, as all would have done everything in
their power to alleviate his sufferings, but it was the singular
custom of the natives that prevented their doing so. Had he died, the
white man who ministered to him would have been made responsible for
his death, and would have been almost as heavily fined as if he had
murdered him! If he got well, as he did, his benefactor would have been
inconvenienced by heavy demands for his maintenance and clothing, and
expected to make presents to the king, &c., for he would be looked upon
as having saved his life, and consequently bound to support him, to a
certain extent, as he was, though alive, unable from the accident to
get his own living as readily as if he were uninjured. The Frenchman
got over this risk by giving the remedies, not to the wounded black
himself, but to his friends, and also making them clear out of the
precincts of the house; so that in no case, whether the man died or
lived, could any claim be made against him.

The only way to put a stop to the awful bloodshed now going on in the
interior would be to organize an emigration scheme, under the direct
supervision of the several governments who have entered into treaties
for the abolition of slavery, and transport the poor wretches, now
being murdered in cold blood by thousands, to tropical climates where
they might earn their living by the cultivation of those articles
necessary for consumption in civilized countries; their constitution
would enable them to resist the climate, and they would gradually
become civilized.

One great bar to their civilization in Angola, is that no tribe on the
coast can be induced to work for wages, except as servants in houses
and stores, and even these are mostly slaves of other natives, or work
to pay off some fine or penalty incurred in their towns. For some years
that I have been collecting the inner bark of the Adansonia digitata,
or Baobab tree (the application of which to paper-making I discovered
in 1858, and commenced working as a commercial speculation in 1865), I
have been unable to induce one single native to hire himself to work by
day or piecework; they will cut, prepare, and dry it, and bring it for
sale, but nothing will induce them to hire themselves, or their slaves,
to a white man.

There are at present in Angola several sugar and cotton plantations
worked by slaves, called at present “libertos,” who are meant by the
Portuguese Government to work ten years, as a compensation to their
owners for the capital expended in their purchase and for their
clothing, education and medical treatment. At a near date, the total
abolition of slavery in Angola has been decreed, and will come into
force; with the inevitable result of the ruin of the plantations, or
of its becoming a dead letter in the province.

By the native laws, a black once sold as a slave, and escaping back to
his tribe, is considered a free man, so that a planter at present has
no hold on his slaves; if they escape into the neighbouring towns, the
natives will only deliver them up on the payment of a certain amount,
very often more than he had cost in the first instance.

No amount of kindness or good done to a negro will have the slightest
influence in preventing him from leaving his benefactor without as much
as a “good-bye,” or a shadow of an excuse, and very often going from
a pampered existence to the certainty of the hard fare and life of
their free condition, and this, not from the slightest idea of love of
freedom, or anything of the kind, but simply from an animal instinct to
live a lazy and vegetative existence.

When I was at Cuio, working a copper deposit, a black called Firmino,
the slave of a Portuguese there, attached himself very much to me, and
was, seemingly, never so happy as when accompanying me in my trips
and rambles, and not from any payment I gave him, beyond a small and
occasional present. When his master was leaving the place, Firmino came
crying to me, begging me to buy him, that he might remain in my service
as my slave, promising that he would never leave me.

His master generally treating him with harshness, if not cruelty, I
took pity on him, and gave 13_l._ 10_s._ for him, a high and fancy
price there, but he was considered worth it from his great size and
strength, his speaking Portuguese perfectly, and good qualities

I explained to him that although I had bought him, he was a free man,
and could go at once if he liked; but that as long as he remained in my
service as my personal attendant, he should have clothes and pay. He
went on his knees to thank me and to swear in negro fashion, by making
a cross in the dust with his forefinger, that he would never leave me.
A fortnight after, having to send him with a bundle of clothes from
Benguella to Cuio, he delivered them to the person they were addressed
to, but joined three slaves in stealing a boat and sailing to Loanda.

A month after I received a letter from the police there advising
me that a nigger called Firmino had been caught with others in an
extensive robbery, and claimed to be my slave. I answered that he was
no slave of mine, detailing the circumstances of my freeing him, and
asking that he should be dealt with as he deserved. He was punished and
drafted as a soldier at Loanda, and on my meeting him there one day and
asking him his reason for leaving me, and treating me so ungratefully,
he said that “he did not know why he had done so;” and I do not believe
he did, or ever tried to find out, or bothered his head any more about

It is no use disguising the fact that the negro race is, mentally,
differently constituted from the white, however disagreeable and
opposed this may be to the usual and prevailing ideas in this country.
I do not believe, and I fearlessly assert, that there is hardly
such a thing possible as the sincere conversion of a single negro
to Christianity whilst in Africa, and under the powerful influence
of their fellows. No progress will be made in the condition of the
negro as long as the idea prevails that he can be reasoned out of his
ignorance and prejudices, and his belief in fetish, or that he is the
equal of the white man; in fact, he must remain the same as he is now,
until we learn to know him properly, and what he really is.

Loanda was discovered in the year 1492, and since 1576 the white race
has never abandoned it. The Jesuits and other missionaries did wonders
in their time, and the results of their great work can be still noticed
to this day: thousands of the natives, for 200 miles to the interior,
can read and write very fairly, though there has hardly been a mission
or school, except in a very small way, at Loanda itself, for many many
years; but those accomplishments are all that civilization or example
has done amongst them. They all believe firmly in their fetishes and
charms, and though generally treated with the utmost kindness and
equality by the Portuguese, the negro race, and even the mulattoes,
have never advanced further than to hold secondary appointments, as
writers or clerks, in the public offices and shops, and to appear
(in public) in the most starched and dandyfied condition. I can only
recollect one black man who had at all distinguished himself in trade;
keeping low and filthy grog-shops being about the extent of their
business capacity. Another honourable exception is a Captain Dias, who
is the captain or governor of the district of the “Barra do Bengo,”
near Loanda, a very intelligent man, and from whom I several times
experienced great kindness and hospitality.

[Illustration: PLATE II.

PORTO DA LENHA. _To face page 81._]



At the mouth of the River Congo and on its north bank a long spit of
sand separates the sea from a small creek or branch of the river. On
this narrow strip, called Banana, are established several factories,
belonging to Dutch, French, and English houses, and serving principally
as depôts for their other factories higher up the river and on the
coast. The Dutch house especially is a large establishment, and it was
in one of their small steamers that my wife and myself ascended the
river in February 1873.

The first place we touched at was Porto da Lenha, about forty or
forty-five miles from Banana. The river banks up to this point are
sheer walls of large mangrove trees rising out of the water; at high
water, particularly, hardly a dry place can be seen where one could
land from a boat or canoe. The natives have, of course, openings known
to themselves, under and through the mangrove, where their little
canoes dart in and out.

Porto da Lenha (Plate II.) consists of half-a-dozen trading factories,
built on ground enclosed from the river by piles, forming quays in
front, where large vessels can discharge and load close alongside.
The wharves are continually sinking, and have to be replaced by
constant addition of new piles and layers of thick fresh-water
bivalve shells, very abundant in the river. We here found growing in
the mud, and with the roots covered by the river at high water, the
lovely orchid “_Lissochilus giganteus_” in full bloom; we collected
some of its roots, which reached England safely, and are now growing
in Kew Gardens. Several fine creepers were also in flower, and we
observed numerous butterflies, which were not easy to capture from the
difficulty of getting at them, as at the back of the houses the dense
bush grows out of swamp, and only those specimens crossing the small
dry space on which the houses are built could be collected. Little
creeks divide one house from another; in some cases a plank bridge
affords communication, but it is mostly effected by boats. A few days
before our arrival a flood had covered the whole of the ground with
several inches of water. Considering the conditions of the place, it
does not seem to be so unhealthy to Europeans as might be expected.
Next day we proceeded to Boma, also situated on the north bank of the
river, about ninety-five miles from Banana.

The scenery completely changes after leaving Porto da Lenha, the
mangrove totally disappears, and several kinds of bright green bushes,
interspersed with different palms and trees, cover the banks for many
miles. Near Boma, however, the banks are higher, and become bare of
trees and shrubs, the whole country being comparatively free of any
other vegetation but high grass; we have arrived, in fact, at the
grass-covered high country before mentioned as beginning at the third
elevation from the coast over the whole of Angola.

We were most hospitably received by a young Portuguese, Senhor Chaves,
in charge of an English factory there, picturesquely situated,
overlooking the banks of the river. A high hill opposite Boma and
across the river is covered from the top right down to the water’s
edge with an impenetrable forest, and it is not easy to explain this
vegetation, as it stands in such singular relief to the comparative
barrenness of the surrounding country, gigantic Baobabs being the great
tree-feature of the place. We crossed the river several times to this
thickly-wooded hill, and were only able to find just sufficient shore
to land under the branches of the trees, one of which (_Lonchocarpus
sericeus_) was in beautiful bloom. The current of the river is so
strong, and the stream so broad, that it took us half-an-hour to get
across in a good boat with ten strong Kroomen paddling.

The view from a high hill on the north bank is magnificent: a
succession of bends of the river, and as far as the sight could reach,
the flat country to the south and west cut into innumerable islands
and creeks, of the brightest green of the water-grass and papyrus
reed, divided by the sunlit and quicksilver-like streams of the vast
rapidly-flowing river.

Boma, as before observed, was formerly the great slave-trade mart,
thousands arriving from all quarters of the interior; they generally
carried a load of provisions, chiefly small beans, a species of the
haricot, for sale to the traders, and on which the slaves were chiefly
fed, in the barracoons and on board the vessels in which they were
shipped, and the Congo used in this way to supply the coast, even to
Loanda, with abundance of beans, mandioca-meal, &c. but since the
cessation of the slave-trade there has been such great scarcity of
native grown food produce, not only in the river but everywhere on the
coast--the cultivation of other products, such as ground-nuts, being of
greater advantage to the natives--that Europeans are sometimes reduced
to great straits for food for the natives in their service, and even
for the fowls. This is one of the curious changes produced in the
country by the abolition of the slave-trade. A very large trade quickly
sprang up at Boma in ground-nuts, palm-oil, palm-kernels, &c. but a
foolish competition amongst the white traders has induced them to go
higher up the river to trade; the consequence has been that Boma, so
capitally situated in every way for a trading station, is now nearly
reduced to a depôt for produce brought from farther up the river.

We were a fortnight at Boma, but were greatly disappointed at the small
number of species of insects we collected, and the poverty in plants
as well. All the lovely coloured finches and other birds of the grassy
regions were here most conspicuous in number and brilliancy, and it
was really beautiful to see the tall grass alive with the brightest
scarlet, yellow, orange, and velvet black of the many different
species, at that season in their full plumage.

We were very much amused at a pretty habit of the males of the tiny
little sky-blue birds (_Estrelda cyanogastra_) that, with other small
birds such as the Spermestes, Estreldas, Pytelias, &c., used to come
down in flocks to feed in the open space round the house. The little
mites would take a grass flower in their beaks, and perform quite a
hoppy dance on any little stick or bush, bobbing their feathery heads
up and down, whilst their tiny throats swelled with the sweetest little
song-notes and trills imaginable. This was their song to the females,
who were feeding about on the ground below them. The long-tailed
little whydah birds (_Vidua principalis_) have a somewhat similar habit
of showing off whilst the hens are feeding on the ground; they keep
hovering in the air about three or four feet above them, twit-twitting
all the time, their long tails rising and falling most gracefully to
the up-and-down motion of their little bodies.

One Sunday during our stay Senhor Chaves organized a pic-nic of the
principal white traders to a native village in the interior, where he
had arranged that the nine kings who govern Boma and receive “customs”
from the traders, should meet us, in order that he might make them
each a “dash,” which he wished my wife to present, in commemoration
of a white woman’s visit. We started in hammocks, and after about two
hours’ journey, arrived at the place of meeting, where a good breakfast
awaited us. Our road was over hilly ground, rough and rocky (mica
schist), and was remarkably bare of vegetation; we passed one or two
large and well-cultivated ravines.

After breakfast the nine kings appeared on the scene, and a miserable
lot they were, with one exception, a fine tall old grizzly negro;
their retinues were of the same description, and wretchedly clad. There
was a big palaver, the customary amount of rum was consumed by them,
and they each received, from my wife, their “dress” of several yards of
cloth, piece of cotton handkerchiefs, red baize sash, and red cotton
nightcap. One old fellow had a very curious old crucifix, which he did
not know the age of; he could only tell that he was the fifth Soba
or king that had inherited it. It had evidently belonged to the old
Catholic Portuguese missionaries of former times.

Crucifixes are often seen as “fetishes” of the kings in Angola. Nothing
will induce them to part with them, as they belong to part of the
“fetishes” that have been handed down from king to king from time
immemorial, and must not be lost or disposed of.

An amusing incident occurred on our way at a large village, where a
great crowd, chiefly of women and children, had collected to cheer the
white woman, seen for the first time in their lives. My hammock was a
little way behind, and on arriving at the village I was met with great
shouts and much shaking of hands; as the other white men had not been
similarly received, I inquired the reason why, and was then informed
that it was to denote their satisfaction at seeing the “proprietor or
owner of the white woman,” as they expressed it.

The natives here, in fact above Porto da Lenha, are Mushicongos, and
are not a bad set of blacks; but, like all this large tribe, are weak
and puny in appearance, dirty in their habits, and scanty of clothing.
They have not as yet allowed white men to pass from Boma, or any
other point of the river, to St. Salvador, and several Portuguese who
have wished to go from St. Salvador to Boma have been dissuaded from
attempting the journey by the king and natives, not from any objection
on their part, but from the certainty that the blacks near the river
would make them turn back.

There is a very great objection on the part of all the tribes of
the interior of Angola, and particularly of those not in the actual
territory held by the Portuguese, to the passage of a white man through
the country. This is due in the first place to the natural distrust
and suspicion of the negro character, and secondly to their fear of
the example of the occupation of Ambriz and the Bembe mines by the
Portuguese. It is impossible for blacks to understand that a white man
will travel for curiosity’s sake; it is perfectly incomprehensible to
them that he should spend money in carriers, making presents, &c.,
only for the pleasure of seeing the country; they are never satisfied
without what they consider a good reason; consequently they always
imagine it must be for the purpose of establishing a factory for
trade, or else to observe the country for its occupation thereafter.
This is the reason why natives will never give reliable information
regarding even the simplest question of direction of roads, rivers,
distances, &c. It is very difficult to obtain exact information, and it
is only after being very well acquainted with them that their natural
suspicions are lulled, and they will freely afford the knowledge

Their explanations of our object in collecting insects, birds, and
other objects of natural history were very curious. Our statements that
we did so to show in the white man’s country what plants, insects,
birds, &c., were to be found in Africa, as ours were so different,
never satisfied them; they always thought that the specimens must be
worth a great deal of money amongst the white men, or, as others did
not devote themselves to collecting, it was to make “fetishes” of
them when we got home: some, who considered themselves wiser than the
others, said it was to copy designs for the Manchester prints, and that
they would see the flowers, butterflies, and birds, copied on the trade
cloth as soon as I got back to my country.

Their idea of my manufacturing the specimens into “fetishes” was a
perfectly natural one in my case, as my nickname at Ambriz and on the
coast is “Endoqui,” or fetish man, from my having introduced the new
trade of collecting and pressing the bark of the Adansonia tree, and
from my wonderful performances in working a small steam engine, and
putting up the hydraulic presses and a corrugated iron store, the first
they had seen, and which caused great surprise.

The natives of the Congo River, from its mouth to a little above Porto
da Lenha, belong to the Mussurongo tribe, and are an ill-favoured
set--they are all piratical robbers, never losing an opportunity of
attacking a loaded barge or even ship, unless well armed or keeping
in the centre of the river, where the great current prevents them
from collecting around it in their canoes. These pirates have been
continually attacked by the Portuguese and English men-of-war,
generally after some more than usually daring robbery, and have had
several severe thrashings, but without their taking the slightest
example by them, the next ship or boat that runs aground on the
numerous sandbanks being again immediately attacked. They have taken
several white men prisoners on such occasions, and have exacted a
ransom for their liberation. They have, however, always treated them
well whilst detained in their towns. The principal houses now do their
trade by steamers, which the Mussurongos dare not, of course, attack.

A few years ago, a notorious pirate chief called Manoel Vacca, who had
caused great loss to the traders by his piracy, was captured by them at
Porto da Lenha and delivered to the British Commodore, who, instead of
hanging him at the yard-arm as he deserved, and as an example to the
nest of thieves of which he was the chief, took him to St. Helena, and
after some time brought this savage back carefully to Porto da Lenha to
his disconsolate followers, who had been unable to find a fit leader
for their piratical robberies. Manoel Vacca, of course, quickly forgot
his promises of amendment made whilst on board the British man-of-war,
and again became the pest he had formerly been, and when we were up the
river had exacted, without the slightest pretence but that of revenge,
a large payment from the traders at Porto da Lenha, threatening to stop
all trade, rob all boats, and kill the “cabindas” or crews, on the
river, if not immediately paid, and--on our way from Boma--we narrowly
escaped being involved in a fight there, in consequence of this
scandalous demand, which I afterwards heard had been complied with.
The traders vowed that if ever they caught him again, they would not
deliver him to have his education continued at St. Helena, but would
finish it on the spot.

The Mussurongos are very fond of wearing ankle-rings, which, when of
brass, are Birmingham made, and obtained from the traders, but in many
cases are made by the natives of iron forged by their smiths, and
cast-tin or pewter, which they obtain in trade in the form of little
bars. Those made by the natives are invariably ornamented with one
peculiar design (Plate IV.). These rings are seldom above a few ounces
in weight, and are worn by men and women alike, very different from the
natives of Cabinda, on the north of the River Congo, whose women wear
them as large and heavy as they can be made. I have in my possession
two copper ankle-rings which I purchased for six shawl-handkerchiefs of
a little old Cabinda woman at Ambriz, weighing seven pounds each. It
cost a smith some considerable time and trouble to take them off, as
from their thickness it was very difficult to wedge them open without
injury to the woman’s legs. It seems almost incredible that Fashion
should, even among these uncivilized tribes, compel the dark sex to
follow her arbitrary exactions, to the extent of carrying the enormous
weight of fourteen pounds of solid metal on their naked feet. Till the
ankles become hardened and used to the rings, the wearers are obliged
to tie rags round them, to protect the skin from injury by the heavy

The River Congo teems with animal life: above Porto da Lenha
hippopotami are very abundant; alligators, of course, swarm, and are
very dangerous.

Of the few small fish that I caught with a line at Boma, no less than
four were new species, and have been named by Dr. A. Günther, of the
British Museum, as the Bryconœthiops microstoma, Alestes holargyreus,
Distichodus affinis, and Mormyrus Monteiri (see ‘Annals and Magazine of
Natural History’ for August, 1873).

At Boma the Koodoo (_Tragelaphus Spekei_, Sclater) antelope must be
very abundant, judging from the number of times that we there ate of
its delicious flesh, brought in for sale by the natives. In my former
visits to Banana I made several shooting excursions to neighbouring
villages of friendly natives, in company with a Portuguese called
Chico, employed at the Dutch factory, who was a keen sportsman: we
generally started in the evening, and slept at a village a few miles
off, rising at daybreak to shoot wild fowl in the lovely creeks and
marshes, before the sun forced us to return to breakfast and the
welcome shade of the palm-trees, under which were the pretty huts of
the village.

Our breakfast invariably consisted of “palm chop,” a delicious dish
when properly prepared, and from the fresh nut. This dish has been
so abused by travellers, who have perhaps hardly tasted it more than
once, and who might have been prejudiced by the colour of the oil,
or the idea that they were eating waggon-grease or palm-soap, that I
must give an accurate description of its preparation and defend its
excellence against its detractors. The nuts of the oil-palm (_Elæis
Guineensis_) are about the size of large chestnuts, the inner part
being excessively hard and stony, and containing an almond (technically
“palm-kernel”). It is enclosed or surrounded by a thin outer mass of
fibre and pulp containing the oil, and covered with a rich red-brown
skin or husk somewhat thinner than that on a chestnut. The pulpy oil
and fibrous portion being separated from the nuts, is melted in a pot
over the fire to further separate all the fibres, and the rich, thick
oily mass is then ready to be added to a dismembered duck or fowl, or
any other kind of meat, and the whole stewed gently together with the
proper amount of water, with the addition of ground green Chili peppers
and salt to taste, until it is quite done, and in appearance like a
rich curry, with which it can best be compared; a squeeze of lime or
lemon is a great improvement. The flavour of this dish is not at all
like what might be expected from the strong smell of the often rancid
palm oil received in this country. It is always eaten with some boiled
preparation of maize flour, or better still of meal from the mandioca
root. A good cook will make a very good “palm chop” with fresh oil, in
the absence of the new nuts.

Another excellent dish is the ordinary haricot bean stewed with palm
oil and Chili peppers till quite tender and thick.

It is from the oil-palm that the finest palm wine is obtained, and it
is curious how few travellers have accurately described this or its
properties. The blacks ascend the trees by the aid of a ring formed
of a stout piece of the stem of a creeper which is excessively strong
and supple: one end is tied into a loop, and the other thrown round
the tree is passed through the loop and bent back (Plate IV.): the end
being secured forms a ready and perfectly safe ring, which the operator
passes over his waist. The stumps of the fallen leaves form projections
which very much assist him in getting up the tree. This is done by
taking hold of the ring with each hand, and by a succession of jerks,
the climber is soon up at the top, with his empty gourds hung round
his neck. With a pointed instrument he taps the tree at the crown, and
attaches the mouth of a gourd to the aperture, or he takes advantage of
the grooved stem of a leaf cut off short to use as a channel for the
sap to flow into the gourd suspended below. This operation is performed
in the evening, and in the early morning the gourds are brought down
with the sap or juice that has collected in them during the night. The
palm wine is now a slightly milky fluid, in appearance as nearly as
possible like the milk in the ordinary cocoa-nut, having very much the
same flavour, only sweeter and more luscious.

When cool in the morning, as brought down fresh from the tree, it is
perfectly delicious, without the slightest trace of fermentation,
and of course not in the least intoxicating; in a few hours, or
very shortly if collected or kept in old gourds in which wine has
previously fermented, it begins to ferment rapidly, becoming acid and
intoxicating; not so much from the quantity of alcohol produced, I
believe, as from its being contained in a strongly effervescent
medium, and being drunk by the natives in the hot time of the day, and
when they are heated by travelling, &c. Even in the morning the wine
has sometimes a slightly acid flavour, if it has been collected in an
old calabash. We used to have new gourds employed for ourselves. The
natives, again, can never be trusted to bring it for sale perfectly
fresh or pure, always mixing it with water or old wine, and of course
spoiling it, and I have known the rascals take water in the calabashes
up the tree to mix with the pure juice, when they thought they should
not have an opportunity of adulterating it before selling it.

[Illustration: PLATE III.

VIEW ON THE CONGO, ABOVE BOMA. _To face page 99._]

The smell of the palm wine, as it dries on the tree tops where they
have been punctured, is very attractive to butterflies, bees, wasps,
and other insects, and these in their turn attract the many species
of insectivorous birds. This is more particularly the case with the
beautiful little sunbirds (_Nectariniæ_), always seen in numbers busily
employed in capturing their insect prey, actively flitting, from top to
top, and darting in and out of the leaf-stems with a little song very
much like that of the cock-robin.



The southern point, at the entrance of the River Congo, is called Point
Padrão, from a marble “Padrão,” or monument raised by the Portuguese
to commemorate the discovery of the River Congo by Diogo Cam, in 1485.
At a short distance from it there formerly existed a monastery and
missionary establishment dedicated to Santo Antonio. That part of the
southern bank of the river opposite Banana is called Santo Antonio
to this day, and a few years ago a Portuguese trader opened a house
there for the purpose of trade; in this he was followed by the agent
of a Liverpool firm, but the result, naturally to be foreseen, took
place, and both factories were robbed and burnt down by the rascally
Mussurongos. Some time before this took place, I was waiting at Banana
for some means of conveyance by sea to Ambriz, but none appearing,
I determined, in company with a Brazilian who was also desirous of
proceeding to the same place, to cross over to Santo Antonio, and try
if we could induce the natives to allow us to pass thence over land to
Cabeça da Cobra. This we did, and remained at the trader’s house till
we got carriers and permission, on making a small present to the king
of Santo Antonio town, to pass through. No white man had been allowed
to do so for many years.

We started one night as soon as the moon rose, about one o’clock, and
after travelling a couple of hours, almost the whole time over marshy
ground and through a dry wood, which we had to pass on foot,--as it
was a fetish wood and it would have been highly unlucky to cross it in
our hammocks,--we arrived at the town of Santo Antonio, which appeared
large and well populated. Here we rested for a little while, whilst we
got some fresh carriers, and the king and several of the natives came
to see us and received two pieces of cotton handkerchiefs, and a couple
of gallons of rum, which we had brought for them. The old bells of
the monastery are still preserved in the town, hung from trees, and
we were treated with a din on them in return for our present. We then
continued our journey over good dry ground till we arrived at Cabeça da
Cobra, or “Snake’s Head,” in time for a late breakfast at the house of
a Portuguese trader. Here Senhor Fernando José da Silva presented me
with a letter of introduction he had brought with him from Lisbon some
years previously, and which he had not before had an opportunity of

I at once engaged him to help me in developing my discovery of the
application of the fibre of the Baobab (_Adansonia digitata_) to
paper-making, and in introducing among the natives the new industry of
collecting and preparing it, and I must here render him a tribute of
gratitude for his friendship and the unceasing activity and energy with
which he has laboured to assist me in permanently establishing this new
trade, in the face of the greatest difficulties, privations, and hard
work for long years on the coast.

The coast line from Cabeça da Cobra to Ambriz is principally composed
of red bluffs and cliffs, and the road or path is generally near the
edge of the cliffs, affording fine views of the sea and surf-beaten
beach below. The country is arid and thinly wooded, and is covered with
hard, wiry, branched grass; and the curious Mateba palm grows in great
abundance in the country from the River Congo to Moculla, where it is
replaced by the Cashew tree as far as Ambrizzette. The flat-leaved
Sansevieria (_S. longiflora_) is extremely abundant, and disappears
south almost entirely about Musserra, where it is in its turn replaced
by Sansevieria Angolensis. These changes are very curious and striking,
being so well marked on a comparatively small extent of coast. The
Baobab tree is everywhere seen, its vast trunk throwing, by comparison,
all other trees into insignificance: it is less abundant perhaps from
the River Congo to about Ambrizzette; from that place, southwards, the
country is one open forest of it.

The natives as far as Mangue Grande are Mussurongos. From this to
Ambriz they are a branch of the Mushicongo tribe. The Mussurongos are
at present an indolent set, but there are signs that they are becoming
more industrious, now that they have given up all hope of seeing the
slave-trade again established, which enabled them, as one said to me,
to be rich without working. Since the last slave was shipped from this
part of the coast, about the year 1868, the development of produce in
the country itself and from the interior has been very great indeed,
and promises in a few years to be still more, and very important in
amount. This will be more particularly the case when the present system
ceases, by which the natives of the coast towns act as middle-men to
the natives from the interior. At present nearly the entire bulk of the
produce comes from the interior, no extensive good plantation grounds
being found before arriving at the first elevation, which we have seen
to commence at from thirty to sixty miles from the coast, the ivory
coming from not less than 200 to 300 miles.

The blacks, on arriving from the interior, put up at the towns on the
coast, where the natives, having been in constant intercourse with the
whites for years, all speak Portuguese, and many of them English. It is
a fact that the natives speak Portuguese more correctly than they do
English, which I attribute to the good custom of the Portuguese very
seldom stooping to murder their language when speaking to the blacks,
which the English universally do, under the mistaken idea of rendering
themselves more intelligible.

These blacks act as interpreters and brokers, and are thereby enabled
to satisfy fully and successfully their innate propensity for roguery
by cheating the natives from the interior to their hearts’ content.
They bargain the produce with the white men at one price, telling the
natives always that it is for a much lower sum, of course pocketing the
difference, sometimes amounting to one-half and more. It is a common
thing to be asked to have only so much,--naming the amount for which
they have pretended to have sold the produce,--paid whilst the owners
are present, and getting a “book” or ticket for the rest, which they
receive from the white trader at another time.

It has been found impossible to do away with this custom, as the
white men are almost dependent for their trade upon these rogues,
called “linguisteres” (derived evidently from the Portuguese term
“lingoa,” “tongue,” or interpreter). These have their defence for the
custom, first, that it has always existed, a great argument with the
conservative negro race; secondly, that it is their commission for
looking after the interests of the natives from the interior, who
would otherwise be cheated by the white men, who would take advantage
of their want of knowledge of the selling prices on the coast; and
thirdly that they have to make presents to the natives out of these
gains, and give them drink at the towns to keep them as their customers
and prevent their going to other towns or linguisteres. The natives
from the interior, again, are very suspicious and afraid of the white
man, and they would hardly dare approach him without being under the
protection of the coast negroes. There is no doubt that the development
of the trade from the interior would increase greatly if the natives
and owners of the produce obtained the full price paid by the white
men. There is almost a certainty, however, that the system will not
last much longer, as the natives are beginning to find out how they
are cheated by their coast brethren, and are already, in many cases,
trading direct with the white men.

The system adopted in trading or bartering with the natives on the
coast, comprehended between the River Congo and Ambriz, is somewhat
complicated and curious. All produce (except ivory) on being brought to
the trader, is put on the scales and the price is agreed, in “longs” in
English, or “peças” in Portuguese. This “peça” or “long” is the unit of
exchange to which all the multifarious articles of barter are referred:
for instance, six yards of the ordinary kinds of cotton cloth, such
as stripes, unbleached calico, blue prints, cotton checks, are equal
to a “long;” a yard and a half of red or blue baize, five bottles of
rum, five brass rods, one cotton umbrella, 3000 blue glass beads,
three, six, eight, or twelve cotton handkerchiefs, according to size
and quality, are also severally equal to a “long;” articles of greater
value, such as kegs of powder, guns, swords, knives, &c., are two or
more “longs” each.

As each bag of coffee (or other produce) is weighed and settled for,
the buyer writes the number of “longs” that has been agreed upon on
a small piece of paper called by the natives “Mucanda,” or, by those
who speak English, a “book;” the buyer continues his weighing and
purchasing, and the “books” are taken by the natives to the store,
which is fitted up like a shop, with shelves on which are arranged at
hand the many different kinds of cloth, &c., employed in barter. The
natives cannot be trusted in the shop, which contains only the white
man and his “Mafuca” or head man, so the noisy, wrangling mob is paid
from it through a small window. We will suppose, for instance, that a
“book” is presented at the window, on which is marked twenty “longs” as
the payment of a bag of coffee; the trader takes--

A gun--value 4 longs
One keg powder 2 ”
One piece of 18 yards stripes 3 ”
One of 18 yards grey calico 3 ”
One of 18 yards checks 3 ”
Eight handkerchiefs 1 ”
Five bottles of rum 1 ”
One table-knife 1 ”
Three thousand beads 1 ”
Five brass rods 1 ”
Total: 20 longs.

This is now passed out, the trader making such alterations in the
payment as the natives desire within certain limits, exchanging, for
instance, the handkerchiefs for red baize, or the piece of calico for
a sword, but there is an understanding that the payment is to be a
certain selection, from which only small deviations can be made. If
such were not the case the payment of 100 or more “books” in a short
time would be impossible. It is by no means an easy task to trade
quickly and successfully with the natives; long practice, and great
patience and good temper are necessary. A good trader, who is used to
the business, can pay the same “book” for a great deal less value than
one unaccustomed to the work, and the natives will often refuse to
trade with a new man or one not used to their ways and long known to

It is rather startling to a stranger to see and hear a couple of
hundred blacks all shouting at the top of their voices to be paid
first, and quarrelling and fighting over their payment, or pretending
to be dissatisfied with it, or that they have been wrongly paid.

Ivory is purchased in a different manner; the tusk is weighed, and
an offer made by the trader in guns, barrels of powder and “longs,”
generally in about the proportion of one gun, one keg of powder, and
two longs; thus a tusk, we will say, is purchased for twelve guns,
twelve kegs of powder, and twenty-four “longs.” The natives do not
receive this, but a more complicated payment takes place; of the twelve
guns they only receive four, the rest being principally in cloth,
on a scale well understood, the guns being calculated generally at
four “longs” each; the same process is carried out with the kegs of
powder, only a certain number being actually given in that commodity:
the twenty-four “longs” are given in cloth and a variety of small
objects, including razors, cheap looking-glasses, padlocks, ankle
rings, playing-cards, empty bottles, hoop-iron off the bales, brass
tacks, glass tumblers and decanters, different kinds of beads, &c. The
amount first agreed upon is called the “rough bundle,” and the trader,
by adding the value of the guns, powder, and “longs,” and dividing the
sum by the weight of the tusk, can tell very nearly what the pound
of ivory will cost when reduced by the substitution of the various
numerous articles given in lieu of the guns and powder agreed upon on
the purchase of the tusk.

The small extent of coast comprised between Ambriz and the River
Congo is a striking example of the wonderful increase of trade, and
consequently industry, among the negroes, since the extinction of the
slave trade, and evidences also the great fertility of a country that
with the rudest appliances can produce such quantities of valuable
produce; about a dozen years ago, a very few tons, with the exception
of ivory, of ground-nuts, coffee, and gum copal only, were exported.
Last year the exports from Ambriz to, and not including, the River
Congo, were as follows:--

Adansonia fibre 1500 tons
Ground-nuts 7500 ”
Coffee 1000 ”
Sesamum seed 650 ”
Red gum copal 50 ”
White Angola gum 100 ”
India-rubber 400 ”
Palm-kernel 100 ”
Ivory 185 ”

Besides this amount of produce, the value of which may be estimated at
over 300,000_l._, a considerable quantity of ground-nuts find their
way to the River Congo from the interior of the country I am now
describing. This is already a most gratifying and interesting result,
and one from which valuable lessons are to be deduced, when we come
to compare it with what has taken place in other parts of the coast,
most notably in the immediate neighbouring country to the south in the
possession of the Portuguese, and is a splendid example of the true
principles by which the African race _in Africa_ can be successfully
civilized, and the only manner in which the riches of the West Coast
can be developed and made available to the wants of the rest of the

There can be no doubt that our attempts to civilize the negro by purely
missionary efforts have been a signal failure. I will say more: so
long as missionary work consists of simply denominational instruction
and controversy, as at present, it is mischievous and retarding to the
material and mental development and prosperity of Africa. Looking at
it from a purely religious point of view, I emphatically deny that a
single native has been converted, otherwise than in name or outward
appearance, to Christianity or Christian morality. Civilization on
the coast has certainly succeeded in putting a considerable number of
blacks into uncomfortable boots and tight and starched clothes, and
their women outwardly into grotesque caricatures of Paris fashions, as
any one may witness by spending even only a few hours at Sierra Leone,
for instance, where he will see the inoffensive native transformed into
a miserable strutting bully, insolent to the highest degree, taught to
consider himself the equal of the white man, as full as his black skin
can hold of overweening conceit, cant, and hypocrisy, without a vice or
superstition removed, or a virtue engrafted in his nature, and calling
the native whose industry supplies him with food, “You nigga! Sah!”

This is the broad and characteristic effect of present missions on the
coast, I am sorry to say, and they will continue to be fruitless as
long as they are not combined with industrial training. That was the
secret of the success of the old Catholic missionaries in Angola; they
were traders as well, and taught the natives the industrial arts,
gardening, and agriculture. What if they derived riches and power,
the envy of which led to their expulsion, from their efforts, so long
as they made good carpenters, smiths, masons, and other artificers of
the natives, and created in them a new life, and the desire for better
clothing, houses, and food, which they could only satisfy by work and

On landing at Bonny from the steamer, to collect plants and insects on
the small piece of dry land opposite the hulks in the river, we saw the
pretty little church and schoolroom belonging to the mission there,
in which were a number of children repeating together, over and over
again, like a number of parrots, “I know dat I hab a soul, because I
feel someting widin me.” Only a few yards off was the village in which
they lived, and a large fetish house exactly the same as any other;
not a sign of work of any kind, not a square yard of ground cleared or
planted, not a fowl or domestic animal, save a lean cur or two, to be
seen; the children, and even big girls, or young women, in a complete
state of nudity,--nothing in fact to show any difference whatever from
any other town in the country. Can any one believe for a moment that
the instruction afforded by that mission was of any avail, that the few
irksome hours of repetition of texts, writing and reading, explanations
of the Bible, &c., could in the least counteract the influence of the
fetish house in the village, or the superstition and ignorance of the
children’s parents and elders, or remove the fears and prejudices
imbibed with their mothers’ milk? Is it not more natural to suppose,
as is well known to be the case, that this imperfect training is just
sufficient to enable them when older to be sharper, more dishonest and
greater rogues than their fellows, and to ape the vices of the white
man, without copying his virtues or his industry?

I remember at Ambrizzette a black who could read and write, forging a
number of “books” for gunpowder, and thus robbing some of the houses
to a considerable extent. The natives wanted to kill him, but on the
white men interceding for his life, they chopped off the fingers of his
right hand with a matchet, to prevent his forging any more. Educated
blacks, or even mulattoes, cannot be trusted as clerks, with the charge
of factories, or in other responsible situations. I do not remember a
case in which loss did not sooner or later result from their employment.

Trade or commerce is the great civilizer of Africa, and the small part
of the coast we are treating of at present is a proof of this. Commerce
has had undisturbed sway for a few years, with the extraordinary result
already stated. The natives have not been spoilt as yet by contact with
the evils of an ignorant and oppressive occupation, as in Portuguese
Angola, or, as on the British West Coast on the other hand, by having
been preached by a dozen opposed and rival sects into a muddled state
of assumed and insolent equality with the white race, whom they hate
in their inmost hearts, from the consciousness of their infinite

Commerce has spread before them a tempting array of Manchester goods,
guns, gunpowder, blankets, rugs, coats, knives, looking-glasses,
playing cards, rum and gin, matchets, tumblers and decanters, beads,
silver and brass ankle-rings, and many other useful or ornamental
articles, without any duties to pay, or any compulsory regulations
of passports, papers, tolls, or hindrances of any kind; the only
key necessary is a bag of produce on the scales; a fair, and in many
cases, even high price is given in return, and every seller picks and
chooses what he or she desires;--and let not rum or gin be abused for
its great share in the development of produce, for it is a powerful
incentive to work. A black dearly loves his drop of drink; he will very
often do for a bottle of rum, what he would not even think of stirring
for, for three times the value in any other article, and yet they are
not great drunkards, as we shall see, when describing their customs;
they so divide any portion of spirits they can obtain, that it does
them no harm whatever. The rum and gin, though of the very cheapest
description, is pure and unsophisticated, the only adulteration being
an innocent one practised by the traders, who generally mix a liberal
proportion of water with it.

When a black does give way to intemperate habits, his friends make him
undergo “fetish” that he shall drink no more, and such is their dread
of consequences if they do not keep their “fetish” promise, that I have
known very few cases of their breaking the “pledge.” Sometimes a black
is “fetished” for rum or other spirit-drinking, but not against wine,
which they are beginning to consume in increasing quantity; the kind
they are supplied with being the ordinary red Lisbon.

In describing the different kinds of produce of this country, the first
on the list, the inner bark of the “Baobab,” or Adansonia digitata,
claims precedence, it being the latest discovery of an African
production as an article of commerce, and of great importance from its
application to paper-making, and also from its opening a new and large
field to native industry.

It was on my first arrival in Ambriz in February 1858, that this
substance struck me as being fit for making good paper: a few simple
experiments enabled me to make specimens of bleached fibre and pulp
from it, proving to me conclusively its suitableness for that purpose.

Having been engaged in mining in Angola, it was not till the year
1865 that I finally determined to proceed to Ambriz, with the view of
developing my discovery, and I have ever since been actively engaged
in establishing houses on the part of the coast I am now describing,
for bartering the Adansonia fibre,--pressing and shipping the same
to England. In my long and arduous task I have met with more than
the ordinary amount of losses and disappointments, from commercial
failures and other causes that seem to fall to the lot of discoverers
or inventors in general; but I have triumphed over all obstacles and
prejudices, and have established its success as a paper-making material
beyond any doubt.

The Baobab, or “monkey fruit tree,” is well known from descriptions as
one of the giants of the vegetable kingdom. It rears its vast trunk
thirty or forty feet high, with a diameter of three or four feet in
the baby plants, to usually twenty to thirty feet in the older trees.
Adansonias of more than thirty feet in diameter are rare, but they have
been measured of as great a size as over 100 feet in circumference; the
thickest trunk I have ever seen was sixty-four feet in circumference,
and was clean and unbroken, without a crack on its smooth bark.

The leaves and flowers are produced during the rainy season, and are
succeeded by the long pendant gourd-like fruit, like hanging notes of
admiration, giving the gigantic, nearly leafless tree a most singular
appearance. Millions of these trees cover the whole of Angola, as
they do in fact the whole of tropical Africa, sufficient to supply an
incalculable amount of paper material for years, but for the indolence
of the negro race. I have no doubt, however, that they will in time
follow the example of the Ambriz blacks, and a very large trade be
developed as in the case of the palm-oil and the india-rubber trade.

The leaves of the Baobab when young are good to eat, boiled as a
vegetable, and in appearance are somewhat like a new horse-chestnut
leaf about half grown, and of a bright green; the flowers are very
handsome, being a large ball of pure white, about four or five inches
across, exactly like a powder puff, with a crown of large thick white
petals turned back on top of it. After a few days the flowers become
tipped with yellow, before dropping from the tree. The trunks, even
of the largest trees, have properly speaking no wood, that is to say,
a plank could not be sawn out of it, or any work made from it;--a
section of a trunk shows first a thin outer skin or covering of a
very peculiar pinkish ashen white, somewhat like that of a silver
birch, some appearing quite silvery against the colour of other trees
and foliage; then there follows about an inch of substance like hard
mangold wurzel with fibres, then the thick coat of fibrous inner bark,
which readily separates; next, the young wood, very much like the inner
bark, and lastly, layers of more woody texture, divided or separated by
irregular layers of pith, the most woody parts having no more firmness
than perfectly rotten mildewed pine wood, and breaking quite readily
with a ragged and very fibrous fracture.

The centre of these vast trunks easily rots, and becomes hollow from
the top, where the stem generally branches off laterally into two or
three huge arms. This is taken advantage of by the Quissama blacks,
who inhabit the south bank of the River Quanza, to use them as tanks
to store rain water in against the dry season, as it is a country very
destitute of water.

The hollow Baobabs are very seldom open from the sides; I only remember
one large tree of this kind

Click here to read this post out
ID: 407371; Unique Viewers: 0
Unique Voters: 0
Latest Change: June 15, 2022, 2:20 a.m. Changes:


Total post views:

There are no posts.